Review: Yummy, Underbelly Festival Southbank

Yummy director James Welsby’s foreword in the programme states a clear goal: for Yummy to prove that “drag is for everyone”. This aim is achieved with undeniable talent, dazzling creativity and of course, an abundance of sparkle. 

Performed in the Underbelly Festival’s Spiegeltent theatre – which outwardly looks like the entrance to an early twentieth century cabaret – is inside a large circus tent, divided by a catwalk with a pink neon sign overhead which reads Yummy. The setting for this show could not be more appropriate: the jaw-dropping stunts and tight ensemble make for a night of spectacle and wonder. 

Yummy’s line-up consists of seven drag queens: Valerie Hex (who also happens to be the show’s director), Benjamin Hancock, Hannie Helsden, Jandruze, Joni In The Moon, Karen From Finance and Zelia Rose. The cast make a very strong ensemble, performing detailed choreography seamlessly. Make no mistake, these performers have perfected the craft of drag and an abundance of other skill sets:  Zelia Rose is this year’s number one burlesque performer and Hannie Helsden’s hula hooping has seen her tour the globe. The array of talent we see on stage is completely diverse, but equally polished. 

The evening’s revelry is introduced by our master of ceremonies Karen From Finance, who goes on to captain the ship for the rest of the performance, keeping the crowd on board throughout with her comedic interludes. The night starts with Zelia Rose’s movie themed burlesque; she takes us through the genres of thriller, horror and romance and my conclusion was that she needs a role in either the next James Bond film or Richard Curtis’ next rom com. Her routine can only be described as hypnotic and I don’t think I leave that trance for the rest of the show. The night has everything you could ask for: a gravity defying hula hooping extravaganza, the most sexual sandwich making class available in London and a number of choreographed numbers set to everything from Beyoncé to Joni In The Moon’s live vocals. You could describe the night as a taster menu for drag, but I think it is justified only as a seven course meal, with every single serving being the main course. 

The design is the height of fashion, with the copious costume changes always remaining colour-coordinated with Sam Doyle’s lighting design. The costumes are the cherry on top; with a leotard of extendable tongues and what appears to be a part electronic Minotaur headdress, these costumes are just as exciting as the routines they feature in.

How fitting that this show is taking place during pride month, as it is a celebration of being unapologetic in sharing your truth with the world – these performers sport every colour of the pride flag, both literally and metaphorically. The company lists their own version of the ten commandments in the programme with the last being “thou shalt not forget pride started with a riot”. This show does not forget: it is both riotous and joyous, it praises proud sexuality and captures the sentiment of a true ensemble.

Yummy is playing Underbelly Festival Southbank until 28 July. For more information and tickets, see the Underbelly Festival website.