(4 / 5)
The Cardiff Fringe has enjoyed a nice drag contingent as of late- for the past couple of years we’ve seen drag nights, street parties at Mary’s, as well the delightful Felix and Sam (among others!) at the launch party, and with a bonafide show of their own on the roster. And what a lovely show it was.
I’ve always been a little terrified of drag- I’m very much a cardigan-and-corduroy queer, so the noise, the glitz and bombast has always made me a little hesitant to attend such shows. ‘What better introduction’, I’ll pretend I thought for the purpose of this review, ‘Than a structured show to get a taste of what it’s all about?’ I’m ever so happy to report that my fears were allayed, and we came away with nothing but praise for this wonderful offering.
The normally cavernous foyer of the Sherman Theatre had been transformed into an intimate cabaret setting (side note: they’re also stocking beers from local brewery Mad Dog, who make an extraordinary New Zealand Pale), ready to explode into a supremely entertaining hour of songs, laughs, costume changes, magic and thankfully minimal audience participation (outside of the many roars of laughter heard throughout the show).
Our titillating titular stars emerge to perform a rousing rendition of Puttin’ on the Ritz, before the first of many of Felix’s costume changes. Don’t think that Sam has nothing to offer in the fashion department- we are treated to a fantastic onstage costume change from him that I’m loath to spoil (it’s far, far more than just putting on a new shirt!). Both are living up to the opening number, dressing an re-dressing throughout the evening, treating us to a fantastic array of dresses and suits. It’s a feast for the eyes that’s matched by a bewitching soundtrack, with plenty of musical hits to keep my partner happy, as well as The Dresden Dolls’ Coin Operated Boy, which I had a lovely time with. The piece gains momentum throughout the evening until the grand finale, replete with the most extraordinary suit jacket I’ve ever seen accompanying a wondrous fan dance. Both Felix and Sam were approachable after the show, which is always welcome- it’s great to enjoy performers both on and off stage, and both have a wit and geniality that makes them great company on either side of the playing space.
The Dress Rehearsal is a wonderful hour of entertainment, with a wide range of different set pieces to delight the audience, but therein lies my personal gripe with the show- and what a small gripe it is! I’m a huge proponent of character development in all its forms, particularly within the narrative of a structured performance. I would have loved to have seen a little more of just who Felix and Sam are- this is pure conjecture based on their blurb in the Fringe brochure reminding me of Tim Foley’s blistering backstage opus The Goddess of Walnuts, and does not detract from the delectable cabaret that was offered unto us. Perhaps one day we will enjoy a vaudevillian evening of talent bolstering a deeper narrative. Until then, I’m more than content to enjoy clapping along to the songs, laughing at the jokes, being impressed by the magic and enjoying the good-natured bickering between the two.
If The Dress Rehearsal is Felix and Sam in a nutshell, then let’s hope that we’ll see them take root and grow into something even more magical soon.