I am sad that, with this likely the last Vault’s Festival, I haven’t had the chance to visit as much as previous years. But how intriguing, to come across two pieces of Queer Theatre, touching on similar themes.
Acid’s Reign is a drag show come informative theatre, highlighting in a cabaret yet theatre narrative, the impact of various pollutants on the World and how it is slowly being destroyed. When I say that there are similar themes, Queer Planet and Acid’s Reign both touch on nature and the element of same sex or a-sexual animals that is not taught in biology class. It was interesting that these were approached for different reasons, but also really great to see different genres of Theatre taking up the political and educational baton with their shows.
Acid’s Reign uses various Drag Queens and Kings to feature as representations of nature – Acid (Joshua Oakes-Rogers) themselves are the “bad guy” that faces support towards redemption, representing a younger character to highlight generational attitudes towards the environment. They are witty, funny, and time of corpse-ing or loss of lines is hilariously well managed, creating layers of comedy and enjoyment that was unintended. They want to build a series of clubs because the World is beyond repair and this is where Mother Nature, played by Son of Tutu (Everybody’s talking about Jamie, film) begins a Christmas Carol style story of different “ghosts” visiting and trying to change Acid’s mind. Son of Tutu holds the stage, certainly embodying the Mother image but also had incredible comedic effect, even in the background.
Scarlett Harlett (Ru Paul’s Drag Race UK) plays the insatiable A-shell, Queen of the Sea, with her wall-shakingly amazing singing voice and continuous innuendo, her character reminding me of a dirty old Hollywood star meets Patsy from Ab Fab. For me, she stood out the most. Maybe some as a Drag Race fan, but I also felt she really commanded the stage and was always on point, even if not at the centre of the story.
Jamie Fuxx brings some masculine energy as our Drag King, Land, bringing yet another incredible singing voice to the mix and some hilarious tongue n cheek dirtiness to the stage. They slot into the cast impeccably, adding to the cacophony of different voices and characters.
Finally, Air is represented by audio, apt in what it is represented. The characters are enveloped with this, as if air can move and embody different persons and helps to culminate the activity and story. Acid is redeemed, and along the way we have been given nuggets of educational facts, some known, some unknown, tinged with comedic effect but also clearly affecting Acid in their solemn response and over all change of heart. We equally come away entertained, but thought provoked.
Acid’s Reign has a cast of incredible talents, all with their own approach and techniques but all with incredible voices and typical comedy skills from Drag/Cabaret shows. But something was missing for me. Perhaps it was just that the show needed a clear format – is this a traditional Cabaret show, where there’s an element of improvisation and crowd inspiration. Is this a musical and therefore represented by the songs that are changed slightly for the message. Or is this a straight play, with the addition of song, trying to bring a message and sticking to a written script. There’s nothing to say that any of it needs to be put in a certain box and cannot be more than one of these things, but at times it felt like too much was trying to be achieved and so lost the spark and perfection of a fully formed production. This clear path may come as a result of many productions, of working on it over years, and we may just be at the beginning of its development.
Acid’s Reign is a brilliant show – it is funny, it is informative, it is entertaining and a feast for the eyes. However, likely still in its infant stage of production, there is so much potential for the show, with the ability to open an important theme to an ever increasing audience as Queer Theatre and Drag comes more mainstream.