In recent times we have seen a rise in the number of productions that have leaned into the idea of an experience rather than simply watching and passively enjoying a performance. Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama recently was home to such a production titled “Queer Collision.”
Before the main auditorium opened for the staged production, the team behind this project decided to facilitate a cabaret show. One of the main headliners of this pre-show cabaret was Ebony Rose Dark who is a visually impaired singer who delivered a wonderful collection of spoken word style performances. During one point in this performance, Ebony burst into a fabulous dance break complete with audio descriptions of what she was doing throughout. Their energy throughout this performance was infectious which was the perfect way to get the audience ready for the main show later! One of my favourite quotes of the evening came from Ebony as she described being a VIP guest at this event but instead of the classic very important person, she was a visually impaired person! It was not only entertainment that Ebony was interested in delivering this evening however, they also managed to sprinkle in the perfect amount of education as they talked about the importance/purpose of a cane for visually impaired people.
I have to say that I was totally captivated by the mesmerising Rajan as they strutted across down the staircase at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. Shifting the focus from the front of the stage to the rafters meant that from the first second the audience’s gaze didn’t not leave the performer. They gracefully strutted down the stairs in the most gorgeous pair of stiletto heels which came with a perfect exclamation point of tear-away trousers! The fact that Rajan was able to keep a firm grasp on the audience’s attention throughout their performance (without the need to excessive extravagance or unnecessary theatrics) was simply incredible! They are clearly a very talented dancer as their body moved in such an effortless and gorgeous way that had the audience in awe from the moments they began their spoken word piece instructing everyone essence of the performer was absolutely incredible to watch! The performer worked every inch of the performance area, even interacting with certain members of the audience! At the end of the number, Rajan instructed the audience to follow them into the auditorium which helped to transform this performance into a theatrical experience rather than the typical two-person biography I was expecting!
The main portion of Queer Collision saw two fabulous performers take to the stage to share their experience of growing up queer. This included key milestone moments including their first relationship, moments of intense bullying, gay awakenings and dating in later life. The character Willie was clearly the more natural and experience storyteller as they weaved dramatic accounts of meeting someone online, a public toilet experience and an eccentric plan of their future funeral while his co-star was clearly a much more gifted dancer. The latter took the audience on a journey of him and his boyfriend being attacked after a night out which was wonderfully captured through powerful and moving choreography which had everyone in the audience extremely close to tears! We were however treated to a scattering of dancing from the former with a particular highlight being towards the end of the show when they led a performance of traditional Scottish dancing!
Each person used their talents to share heart-warming to devastating stories which made for a very entertaining narrative from the audience. It was incredibly clear that these two performers had wonderful chemistry both on and off-stage as they bounced off each other flawlessly. At times it even felt like the performance was simply two friends catching-up and sharing stories which the audience were invited to observe. I found it particularly inspiring that these two mature performers were able to deliver an honest and real retrospective of their retrospective lives as we often forget that it was a mere couple of years ago when times were incredibly different!
After the main show had finished the audience were invited to go back to the cabaret area where we were treated to a performance by the wonderful Venetia Blind. I don’t know about everyone else but when a show finishes all I usually want to do is head home and get into bed. However, Venetia was able to re-ignite the audience as she launched into a series of original parody numbers. She graced the stage wearing a gorgeous pink ball gown with wonderful purple/pink ombré hair that looked absolutely stunning! Her set started with her making a joke about the fact that when she first heard the title of the main production “Queer Collision” she thought that Elton John and Ru Paul were in a car crash which the audience found hysterical. One of my favourite jokes of the evening was that Venica had said that she had actually applied to the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama but was rejected so now she is back with a vengeance. Not only were her vocals an absolute treat for the ears throughout but she was able to create unique and hilarious parody including a song about how many people view her as an inspirational porn star and how so people over-praise blind people for simply existing. She told the story of being hungover on the side of the road and a woman grabbing her (without consent) as she spotted Venetia is visually impaired. As a non-visually impaired person, I cannot imagine someone forcing unnecessary help onto to at any time never mind when hungover so I can totally imagine the frustration this event would have caused!
Overall, Queer Collision was a beautifully moving and powerful exploration of what it is like to grow up queer. The two styles of performance contrasted beautifully with the two performers showcasing incredible chemistry as they shared powerful and moving stories throughout their lives! I do not think I have ever seen a production that is so inclusive and accessible with constant sign language interpreters, audio descriptions throughout and showcasing absolutely fantastic and visually impaired talent! I would rate this production 5 out of 5 stars!