Once upon a time there was a sparkling, girly boy who found a mysterious crystal ball hidden away in an attic. That girly boy was Nathan Kiley who is now better known as drag queen Topsie Redfern. In a slick black corset, Redfern enters the glittery stage of the Above The Stag Theatre and greets us in her charismatic, contagiously hearty way to her new cabaret show Topsie Redfern’s Crystal Balls.
The set is decked with cabaret dresses, wooden crates, boxes of chocolate, children’s’ books and of course – the magic crystal ball that’s taking centre stage. But what is the story behind it? What role does it play in the queen’s life? Of course, Redfern does not leave us hanging for long. With sincerity and eagerness, she lets us into the secret of the crystal ball which once belonged to her gypsy relative Madam Olga. And that is the fascinating story that will accompany us for the rest of the evening.
The first half of Redfern’s cabaret show is a wonderful mix of fabulous songs, stunning opera-esque performances and funny anecdotes about her time in Chicago the Musical. She ironically embraces “fit in by overcompensating” and lets us into her experience of performing at her best friend’s wedding in front of the (slightly – or not so slightly – homophobic) mother, and the “stay / leave” conundrum following her romantic engagements.
Topsie Redfern’s Crystal Balls is not like any other cabaret show. Beneath the jokes, the banter, and the queer pride lies a more personal, more meaningful, and more weighty drag performance. She takes us with her on the journey of discovering her past, her family, her relationship with drag, and her adventure of becoming a proud shiny girly boy. The performance is complete when we are invited to see a completely different side to Redfern in the second half and offers us precious insight into moments of self-discovery, a subtle identity crisis and so much inspiring self-love.
More than cabaret, Topsie Redfern’s Crystal Balls feels like a vulnerable, autobiographical journey through queer history through the eyes of Kiley’s Madam Olga. Although the story is a bit patchy, and Kiley picks it up here and there, with songs or funny stories stacked in between, it does not take away from the rawness and heart-warming sentimentality. Redfern has got hands and roses flying in the air for most of the show and Kiley leaves us teary-eyed at the end of it.
Topsie Redfern’s Crystal Balls played at the Above The Stag Theatre on 30 May 2021. For more information, visit Above The Stag Theatre online.