Tipping The Top Hat
The audience are invited into a quirky Victorian parlour in the beautiful Ugly Duck space (recently rebranded from 47/49 Tanner Street), and encouraged to explore the cast’s eccentric parlours before the raunchy cabaret begins.
PECS bill themselves as a female drag collective, and sing and dance their way around folk songs, jazz standards, comedy sketches and even a bizarrely compelling reading of ‘Tipping the Velvet’.
Kathryn Griffiths’ compere steals the show with wit, comic timing and bawdy humour that pulls the whole night together. The team address the audience throughout as ‘ladies, gents and non-binaries’, highlighting the crux of the piece. At times you forget you’re watching a drag ensemble- and there are interesting moments when a female actor plays a man playing a woman. By playfully unpicking Victorian attitudes to lesbianism and gender equality, the PECS team find fresh ground to explore and celebrate whilst casting a critical eye over the progress still to be made in 2015.
There is a moderate amount of audience involvement (with this reviewer sheepishly roped in at one point), but it all feels very consensual – with Griffiths sensitively leaving a reluctant victim well alone.
There are some aspects of the show that feel undeveloped. The well dressed spaces that the audience are encouraged to poke around don’t seem to inform the performance, and it feels detached from the rest of the show. Also, some of the acts need a little more oomph, but the variety of musical styles and performances offer something for everyone. There are brilliant vocal performances, including Rosie Skan’s folk song, and Temi Wilkey shows off her wonderful tone throughout the night.
The night is a fun one, with lots of laughs. The PECS team are keen to show you a good time, the space is open much before the show starts, and then stays open with you after the final act too, as the cast encourage you to enjoy a very reasonably priced bar.
There are some thoughtful reflections on the demise of the music hall, and the rise of gender equality, couched comfortably in smutty jokes and provocative dancing.