Maybe it was that old disco classic blasting over the speakers, the glitter that had just been applied to either side of my eyes or the dance floor that transported us back to a seventies night club. Whatever it was, it was so thrilling that I forgot for a brief five minutes that I don’t particularly enjoy immersive theatre and I’m quite a strong believer in the fourth wall.
Shakespeare fans will recognise the storyline of the original rom-com, A Midsummer’s Night Dream. But in this world, Lady Puck (James Gillan) is a glamorous drag queen who causes mischief with some ‘special pills’ that would have easily been found in any seventies nightclub. Like in Shakespearean theatre, the actors are intended to play both male and female characters but the difference is this cast is mostly female. This works brilliantly in mocking the crass male behaviour that women encountered (and still do) from men in nightclubs.
For those who are familiar with Proud in Camden, it may be hard to picture how the small space can double up as a theatre. Well here’s the thing… it doesn’t. As you walk in the dancers are moving around you and above you. There’s pole dancing, fire breathing, hoop artists and trapeze happening all around the room. You are expected to sing and dance along with the cast: if the fairies see you standing still, it won’t be long until you find one grinding up against you, helping you get into the swing of things. Featuring 70s disco classics such as; ‘I Will Survive’, ‘Car Wash’, ‘We Are Family’, ‘Don’t Leave Me This Way’, ‘You Sexy Thing’ and ‘Young Hearts Run Free’, it’s hard not to get caught up in the rhythm.
This is quite a remarkable cast too and the way they manage to manoeuvre around the audience is impressive. It’s probably hard to imagine how each audience will respond to quite a complex staging, so the way they deal with moving people out of the way of moving platforms or encouraging them to move into the centre to join in is superb. It must be such a challenge to keep such a high energy going night after night, but they make it look effortless.
There are only two downsides to the show. There’s so much going on that it’s easy to get distracted and become confused as to where you should be looking and also the show comes to quite an abrupt end. If you’re not a fan of immersive theatre either but like a good night out, gather your friends and head down to Proud because it’s crazy, fabulous, fun and sexy all rolled into one. The Donkey Show is the hottest party around this summer and whether you’re celebrating a birthday, hen party or just the end of exams you’ll want to be part of it.
The Donkey Show plays at Proud Cabaret until 21 August. For more information and tickets, see the Proud Cabaret website. Photo: Jane Hobson