Theatre & Arts

Saturday 2 August 2014

Panti plays a hilarious court jester in Vicar Street

Review

Eamon Sweeney

Published 16/06/2014|00:36

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Panti Bliss, AKA Rory O'Neill
Panti Bliss, AKA Rory O'Neill

Before last January, Rory O’Neill, aka Panti, was a well- known drag queen, but far from a household name outside annual attendees of Alternative Miss Ireland or theatrical circles. An infamous appearance on The Saturday Night Show changed all that to the extremity of Panti becoming ‘Pantigate’.

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For her new show, High Heels in Low Places, the fall- out of the whole ruckus is played for laughs rather than political football. Panti muses that she sees her role as a court jester who “says the un- sayable”. “If you don’t like it, you can sue me,” she jokes.

If you’ve seen Panti’s Noble Call at the Abbey Theatre on YouTube from earlier this year, you’ll be well aware that she is extremely articulate.

This performance proves that she is also wickedly funny. Panti playfully mourns for the day when gays weren't into football and lesbians liked KD Lang. “It must be awful being straight and having to listen to U2,” she cackles to an innocent but willing bystander in the front row.

Panti delights in recalling a good anecdote. Tales about hanging out with Madonna at the funeral of the late architect David Collins last summer are retold with relish and a terrific eye for entertaining detail, perfectly capturing the astonished reaction of waiters in the Powerscourt Carlton Hotel.

When someone whistles at the mention of the hotel, she quips: “It’s a story about Madonna and you’re impressed by a hotel in Powerscourt!”

Panti plays a little game to try and set up an audience member with her friend Ricardo via a carefully calibrated but fun points-scoring system. Ricardo is introduced as a pin-up photo, which shows off a perfect six- pack stomach and an impressive physique. It’s all an absolute hoot with Panti teasing the eventual winner that he is present and correct for a date. He isn’t, but the whole audience nervously belly-flips for the participant.

The closing segment features footage of Panti and comedienne Katherine Lynch unmercifully winding up US tabloid television host Maury Povich about transvestites receiving makeovers to turn them back into men.

Lynch poses as Panti’s sister. Everything they say on camera is a complete lie, but absolutely priceless. The image of a seven-year-old Panti tearing after his mother in a funeral procession wearing a wedding dress is perfectly told and well worth checking out online.

Running for about two hours without an interval, the show is just a little bit too long, but for the most part immensely entertaining and engaging. As national treasures go, Panti is as lively and as hilarious as they get.

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