At first, I thought I’d accidentally walked into the rehearsals of Grindr: A Love Story? But I was actually amongst the audience for All Dolled Up which played at the Powerhouse, Thursday through Friday last week.
All Dolled Up is an ultra candid stand-up cum ‘performance lecture’ cum wee reminiscent chat with a new old friend – Panti, Irelands ‘first lady of drag’.
Publicity for this show mostly touts Panti as Ireland’s premier ‘gender illusionist’ but I found this particular performance to be so much more than what you’d expect from your average ‘drag show’. In fact, All Dolled Up is almost the anti-drag performance, or the drag for thinking people if you will. The Panti we meet is not an illusion, she is the real thing, she is really herself and as clever as the catch phrase ‘self-made, man-made women’ is. This performance is not just about the person we make ourselves up to be, but the person we truly are. This is a really powerful statement when thinking about the trans/drag community and the way society (straight and gay) still treats them today.
The show was certainly dressed like drag, with all the sparkling, glittering accoutrement of showbiz. It also had that filthy-dirty-drag mouth and those fabulous wig-raising stories from Panti’s wild lip-synching-with-the-best-of-them past, as she regales us with her unique journey from her tiny county in Ireland all the way to Tokyo’s pervert set. Her memories are highly entertaining and eye-brow raisingly informative about life in the trans community. But, in between all this, you get a sense of something else, something less glittery, something less brash, something soft and warming. It’s not often that we get to glimpse the personal side of the cabaret star and it really is a beautiful thing.
Cutting a gorgeous figure in a sexy little red dress and skyscraper heels, Panti is definitely worth spending the evening with. All Dolled Up is now heading to Sydney before hitting the Melbourne Festival.