Review: Dragtime! Presents: Family Values

Helena Carone Wheatley 20 February 2020
Image credit: Laura Wells

The Dragtime! family are back with some hilarious and heart-warming performances. The show does not lose its energy throughout and the audience leave feeling a weird mix of sexy and wholesome. With a few tech slip-ups and some slightly under-rehearsed performances, this night is promising if not yet polished.

Don’t let ‘Family Values’ fool you: they will not be keeping it PG. The show features some rather suggestive action with a banana, a few strip teases here and there, not to mention some steamy lip-syncing from the illustriously kinky Sir Loin (Noelle Woolery) and the stunningly talented Laura Saunders (Alma Fella). But, at the same time, there are some really touching moments. In particular, King Hoberon (Helena Fox) and CÉLINE (Celine Clark) come together to demonstrate the beauty and pain of the queer experience. Setting tableaus of a tender lesbian love-story against a backdrop of recorded interviews with queer Cambridge students was a brilliant decision that clearly touched the audience.

Image credit: Jay Chiswick

The show is hosted by Velvet Caveat (Connor Duffy), the ‘mother’ of the drag family. Channelling a mix glamour and chattiness, she manages to engage the audience most of the time with a casual sense of humour and ‘cool-mom’ energy. Maybe it was the first-night nerves, maybe it was the small audience, but her charismatic and engaging performance was sometimes brought down by a few awkward moments and bumpy transitions.

Image credit: Rod Hibberd

Indeed, the flow of the performances was compromised by some pretty frequent tech slip-ups. Scenes where music was interspersed with sound effects and other recordings seemed difficult to co-ordinate. This meant that quite often, actors would mouth the lines before the sound played, meaning the spell was somewhat broken. This gave the night more of a dress-rehearsal than opening night feel. But, as Velvet Caveat rightly pointed out towards the end of the night when things started to unravel slightly, “it’s first night – bear with”: for the first night of such an ambitious show, Technical Director Deasil Waltho did an impressive job.

Image credit: Jay Chiswick

What stood out about the show to me was the choreography by Connor Duffy and Griffin Twemlow. This made Alma Fella’s opening solo – already the highlight of the night – a true piece of artistic and comedy gold, as well as tying together some of the more technically complex scenes such as Big C (Charli Foreman)’s “In the Navy” bit.

Overall, ‘Dragtime! Presents: Family Values’ is not without its flaws. But, if you are looking for a night of laughs, talent and queer excellence then you are in for a treat.

3.5 stars