Reviews

Kinky Boots Review (including chronic illness perspective)

©Kinky Boots [Image description: Kinky Boots the Musical logo, the words “Kinky Boots” written in a red sparkly italic font with the letter K being made of a pair of long red high heeled sparkly boots.]
I put my best foot back into the theatrical world last week with my first show of the year by seeing the fabulous Kinky Boots at Venue Cymru, Llandudno.

3-and-a-half-stars
3 and a half stars

Kinky Boots the show that needs more than your average national tour’s supply of gaffa tape! Just like one of Lola’s sparkly red designs, it’s been a musical that’s been blinking away at me for a while but seemed a distant possibility. Feeling better about visiting different venues this year and with an unashamed love for RuPaul’s Drag Race when I saw it was on at Venue Cymru I decided to find out for myself what so many were raving about.

Written for the stage by Harvey Fierstein and Cyndi Lauper Kinky Boots is based on a true story about a shoe factory in Northampton that’s about to go bankrupt. Until a chance encounter between the two principal characters, Charlie Price (played by Joel Harper- Jackson), the present son in Price and Son, and Lola (played by Kayi Ushe) a dazzling drag queen changes both their lives and that of the factory workers.

It explores the themes of acceptance, identity and relationships. Stepping out of the shadows of expectation and being accepted in your own right, for who you truly are by others and by yourself. Something I think gets shown in more depth because of such a dichotomy of characters, which consequently lend themselves to the humour, rage and misunderstanding that can occur when these worlds and characters collide.

The scene where Lola and her Angels first come to the factory had the audience in stitches with laughter. Living up to all the comedic expectation that Charlie and Lola’s previous encounter makes you expect. Those ladies don’t half know how to make an entrance!

The choreography (by Jerry Mitchell) and prop work were cleverly done in Step One. And the complexity and challenge of dancing on the travellators was a real spectacle.

What’s so wonderful about the writing and Jerry Mitchell’s direction is the contrast of comedy with pain and conflict. Such as when Simon (Lola) shares his acceptance story in Not my Father’s Son and later in Hold Me in your Heart both incredibly beautiful pieces of music where Ushe gives such a masterclass in how to have the audience in the palm of your hand and hanging off every word. As well as the emotionally charged scenes of how the pressure and weight of expectation affect Charlie. Harper- Jackson really captured this soul searching and shifting emotions well. Taking the audience on a journey especially in each Charlie’s Soliloquy and Soul of a Man.

This show definitely does not shy away from being very real. Because unlike a comment I overheard an usher say as I left the auditorium that the show “had no nastiness about it,” I would have to disagree and say that there was plenty. And without it perhaps the overall uplifting effect and heart of the play wouldn’t be as effective.

It’s truly captivating and pure escapism with that magical ability to just let yourself get completely lost and transported by. Allowing you to “leave expectations at the door, just let your eyes explore.” It was great to see people of all ages, gender and sexual identity leaving the theatre having been uplifted.

That overall joyous feeling and positive message could definitely make me watch this show over and over, knowing that 2 and a half hours later I’d be raised up. But my head does have to wade in and be a little critical. At times I found it really difficult to know what was being said/ sung, whether this was lack of clarity or combined with the levels of the band and singers. I still have no idea what a Northampton accent sounds like and after listening to both cast albums am none the wiser. Although, I do know that geographically it’s not in the north of England as gets stated often.

As much as I hate to say it, I didn’t really care for both female leads. Not because of the actors but because their relationship with Charlie were both completely overshadowed by his relationship with Lola/ Simon and the self-acceptance that stems from it. Though I understand how Nicola’s role is divisive to the plot and one of the directions Charlie feels he’s being pulled.

20190218_125144
Image description: Photo taken of Kinky Boots Tour programmes and ticket.

How the show affected my chronic illness was again a big factor in not being able to rate it as high as I’d have liked. Most obviously was the use of strobe lighting in In This Corner and while it does get mentioned on the tour’s website and on some tour venues Kinky Boots pages when I went to see the show there was no other warning about them. Also because of the abundance of sparkle, metal and lighting, there’s a lot of getting lights in your eye that may have an effect if you have a sensitivity to light. Sound wise there’s quite a lot of bass, which I know can be appreciated by D/ deaf or hard of hearing audience members but can be problematic for some chronic illnesses which have misophonia as a symptom or where certain sounds can be a trigger. There were times when the floor felt like it was moving and unfortunately being sat in accessible seating opposite a speaker I felt like I was being battered. So I definitely was watching knowing that the after effects weren’t going to be too pretty and I’d be right.

In terms of trigger warnings for content, as I mentioned there’s some violence and a fight scene with strobe lighting, shouting and some swearing. And talk of difficult family relationships and death.

Kinky Boots is touring the UK until November 2019. All dates can be found at www.kinkybootsthemusical.co.uk/uk-tour/tour-dates-venues

It’s also great that there are accessible shows for most venues. More details of what accessible performances are on where, how to book accessible tickets and how to join access schemes can be seen at Kinky Boots UK tour accessible listings

Hopefully, I’ll have a venue review for Venue Cymru up in the near future.

*This post was not sponsored or affiliated with Kinky Boots or Venue Cymru in any way.

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