Myra Dubois makes her solo West End debut in Dead Funny, a show created around the concept of death and her own funeral, before embarking on a UK tour. Gareth Joyner is no stranger to the Garrick Theatre, however, as he recently performed as his popular alter-ego in Death Drop at the same venue. This production also sees the return of another of his characters, Frank Lavender, and a clear fan-favourite, his assistant Rose: the wife of Frank and sister of Myra.
Joyner’s turn as Frank Lavender, who is presented as the warm-up act for Myra, is mostly well-received as he plays into a caricature of an older straight white cisgender man. The drag-king-esque vibe of the character does take the edge off of certain jokes deliberately rooted in misogyny as Frank unconvincingly tries to convince the audience that he is an ‘ally’; however, not all of the routine completely lands with those new to a Myra Dubois gig.
The interval comes just in time, as Frank’s comedy is starting to wear thin, and the audience sit in anticipation for the real star of the show. Unfortunately, as per most drag events, the wait does stretch out a little as Joyner undergoes the complete transformation into his diva-ish alter-ego.
Eventually, Dubois emerges for the second act and all is forgiven as she instantly delights with her hilarious persona and complete command of the stage. Dubois clearly has a very dedicated fanbase and knows exactly how to work her audience, consistently firing cutting quips at certain lucky members of the stalls area. Her disinterest and disdain for any topic other than herself is so refined and well-balanced that she has loyal fans in the palm of her hand, and newbies to her sharp comedy are quick to follow suit.
Dubois has a strong set of material prepared, centring around the loose concept of her funeral, which she quickly acknowledges as a ‘plot device’ and the best excuse she could think of to be the centre of attention. It is clear that she is a queen for the people, however, as her strongest moments come when she plays off of the audience, and, probably for that reason, there is a lot of audience participation built into the act. Not once is Dubois ever caught off-guard and she has impressive clapbacks for every situation.
The show is staged quite simply, and the ‘cheap’ set does not go unacknowledged by Dubois in her tirade of disdainful remarks about… everything. This works well for Dubois however, who acts as if she is the only necessary thing in the theatre, and even creates further comedy out of abusing Rose as a prop. Pre-show and interval music in the form of a radio station playing songs dedicated to the ‘late Myra Dubois’ is also a nice touch in reinforcing the concept of the show.
Dead Funny will certainly delight existing fans of Myra Dubois, as she secures another hit to add to her long list of dry comedy appearances. As with any comedy which relies upon a deliberately cruel persona, her shows may not be for everyone; however, Dubois knows exactly who she is, what she wants to deliver, and how to get her fans howling in their seats.
Myra Dubois: Dead Funny played Garrick Theatre on 6 September and now continues a UK Tour. For more information and tickets, see Myra Dubois’ website.