Playing at the Theatre Royal until Saturday 18th February, the latest production of La Cage aux Folles is full of all the glitz and glamour of the cabaret, the slapstick of the pantomime, and an unusual yet somehow familiar plot-line. It’s a show that must be seen, and a truly amazing one at that.
The production follows the story of Albin and Georges, a gay couple who run the Saint-Tropez drag nightclub La Cage aux Folles, with Albin (or rather, his performance persona Zaza) as the star of the show. Georges’ son from a previous relationship, Jean-Michele, plans to get married, but his fiance’s family are puritans to the extreme. And so begins a mad tale of family drama.
While still utterly hilarious, and with incredible talents performing throughout, La Cage aux Folles is a thought-provoking production that brings to light issues of gender and identity that are still prevalent in society now, thirty years after its first performance on Broadway.
“Partridge’s interaction with the rest of the cast throughout the performance was lovely to see”
Special credit has to go out to John Partridge, who plays Albin in this production. Though perhaps best known for his role as Christian Clarke in EastEnders, his performance in La Cage aux Folles is unparalleled; he fills the role with such emotion and passion. The character of Albin comes to life within him, and his stage presence is beyond compare – it’s no wonder that he received the loudest cheers of the night when the final curtains closed. Partridge’s interaction with the rest of the cast throughout the performance was lovely to see – there was a real sense of a family off the stage, in addition to the one being shown on it.
“For a lot of the performance I struggled to ascertain which characters were played by male actors, and which by female”
Also worth a mention are the wonderful characters created by the chorus of drag queens; Angelique (Richard Leavey), Bitelle (Matthew Ives), Chantel (Louie-George Daniels), Hannah (Jordan Livesey), Mercedes (Micah Holmes), Phaedra (Liam Paul Jennings) and Rochelle (Luke Byrne) were all brought to life by their actors, and each was identifiable through their individual quirks and characteristics.
Perhaps the best testament to the quality of their acting is that for a lot of the performance I struggled to ascertain which characters were played by male actors, and which by female! All performances were talented, from Hannah’s dominatrix tendencies, hilariously portrayed by Livesey, to Chantel’s endearing bumbling and striking blue eyeshadow, which Daniels played amazingly (despite this being his professional stage debut!).
“My only critique would be of the short portion of pantomime-esque banter that took place just before the interval”
Perhaps my only critique would be of the short portion of pantomime-esque banter that took place just before the interval. I’m not sure if they were stalling for time due to problems off stage (it wast their first night in Nottingham, after all), but it just didn’t seem to fit. Don’t get me wrong, Partridge was hilarious, and his jokes were on point (not to mention his wonderfully familiar Northern accent, which endeared him to me even more), but it just seemed a strange juxtaposition when compared to the rest of the performance. That might just be me being someone who tends to see pantomime and theatre as two separate things, but it is the only flaw I can think of from the whole production.
“Genuinely one of the best theatre productions I’ve ever seen”
An absolute treat for all the senses, La Cage aux Folles is a spectacular show, and I would highly recommend going to see it. It’s full of surprises and laughs, and I think you’d be hard pressed to not laugh at least once during the entire performance. This production takes on some pretty hard-hitting issues in relation to gender and identity, and manages to discuss them in a way that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and is still accessible for everyone. Genuinely one of the best theatre productions I’ve ever seen – if you have a chance to go see it, please do!
9/10 – Unmissable, almost perfect
Image credit: Ellen Smithies
‘La Cage aux Folles’ is running at the Theatre Royal until Saturday 18th February. For more information, and to book tickets, see here.