Stage: Lilly Slaptsilly’s I’m Gagging – Rhumbelow theatre, Cunningham Road, Umbilo, Durban
REVIEW BY BILLY SUTER
THE Cape’s Clive Allardyce, in wig, frock and killer heels, first made a name for himself as leggy Lilly Slaptsilli when she was one half of the excellent Mince drag lip-sync duo which also starred where-is-she-now Keiron Legacy.
That crack team, born when singer and show producer David Kramer needed a fill-in production in 1995 at Cape Town’s Dock Road Theatre, then went on to become resident at the Mother City’s now-defunct On Broadway venue. The gals were there for more than 18 years and also travelled extensively locally and abroad, but they split a few years ago.
Last year Lilly returned with a solo lip-sync show, Shenanigans – it had two seasons in Durban as well – and then, last December, she debuted I’m Gagging at Cape Town’s Craft Burger Bar, owned by former On Broadway owner Russell Shapiro.
I’m Gagging marked Lilly’s debut in the world of standup comedy, something Clive had always wanted to do but felt nervous about, thinking he might have overstretched himself.
He needn’t have had any worries, though, because he’s a natural, and the show is going great guns at the small Craft Burger Bar branch in Buitengracht Street. There, not only Mince fans but a whole new crowd of diverse patrons are being wowed weekly by the novelty of a sassy queen tickling the funnybones.
I’m Gagging started as a regular Sunday attraction at Craft Burger Bar but is now performed every Wednesday evening, on a tiny, raised, box-like stage with a sequinned fabric backdrop. It’s positioned at the far end of the narrow venue.
Now the show has been lengthened and is making its Durban debut on a larger stage with much better lighting and a bigger audience. Final performances after last night’s opening are at 8pm today (Saturday, October 19) and 4.30pm on Sunday (August 20).
While the Cape Town venue’s intimacy works like a charm, Lilly looks more dazzling on a bigger stage and is certainly more mobile with more space and flashier lighting. The setting certainly lends the show a much more glossy sheen.
There is much great hilarity to be had from I’m Gagging which runs only an hour or so in Cape Town but, for the Durban season, runs over two halves, the comedy interspersed with four excellent lip-sync routines. Numbers include dramatic versions of Feeling Good and Over the Rainbow (which, respectively, open and close the show); a delightful delivery of Eartha Kitt’s Champagne Taste (performed in a silver sequinned gown that would make Jessica Rabbit proud); and a cleverly devised lip-sync to movie dialogue out-takes by Joan Crawford.
Slaptsilli is a truly ab fab creation: all glitter and glam, with plenty of nudges and winks, much sass and oodles of sex appeal. She pokes fun at herself, other people and quirky situations she has experienced both as a drag queen and a casual observer. She also takes a few good-natured swipes at her audience. But most take the powder-puff-light pats on the chin with a grin.
After her gutsy lip-sync to Feeling Good, Lilly lurches into a smile-a-second outpouring of humour. It’s easy comedy, often delivered with outrageous actions and expressions, as well as a variety of good accents.
Mirth is milked from topics including begging Bergies; Jewish princesses appreciating a freebie; cats on heat; an outrageous incident involving a Tazer; Lilly’s idea of the perfect aeroplane for gays (including oxygen masks covered in Swarovski crystals and Elton John turning sheet music for Sam Smith); and the differences between gay and straight airline stewards.
Lilly also raises smiles with chat about an exploding suitcase of drag queen outfits; dealing with naughty teen boys causing havoc on a plane; jockeys resembling red fire hydrants; hoodwinking butch traffic cops; and the time she was almost arrested in Namibia for her bird-seed filled boobs. Life in Observatory and Sea Point, Oscar Pistorius and Kylie Jenner … all also come under fire as Slaptsilli slays and sashays.
My only grumble with the show is that Lilly tends to spend most of her time on a platform in front of the stage. I get that it allows for closer contact with the audience but the problem for those seated even a little further back in the venue – which was choc-a-bloc with a rocking audience at last night’s opening – is that one mostly gets to see Miss S only from the waist up. What a waste of those million-dollar legs!
For the same reason, instead of sitting on the edge of the stage, as Lilly sometimes does, it would make more sense to be seated occasionally on a barstool on the raised stage.
For all that, however, I’m Gagging remains camp, clever, cool and commendable – and the party continues after the show with Lilly mingling among her guests and encouraging them to pose with her for photos on her little stage. She invariably posts these happy snaps on her Facebook page later.
For a good laugh, I’m Gagging simply cannot be beat! Round up some pals and treat yourself – seating is at tables of eight. Admission is R150 a head, one can take along snacks (but must buy all drinks at the theatre pub) and booking is at Computicket or by phoning Roland at 082 499 8636.