Brighton’s alternative to panto

Graham Weaver in Priscilla Queen of the Desert
Graham Weaver in Priscilla Queen of the Desert

Big, bright colours, fabulous costumes, songs you can sing along to and the chance to get up on your feet...

No, it’s not panto. It’s Brighton Theatre Royal’s alternative to panto, Priscilla Queen of the Desert, which plays at the venue over the Christmas period (Tuesday, December 17-Sunday, January 5).

Winner of four awards, including Best New Musical, and based on the smash-hit movie, Priscilla is the heart-warming, uplifting adventure of three friends who hop aboard a battered old bus searching for love and friendship and end up finding more than they had ever dreamed of.

Graham Weaver, who plays Adam (Felicia), believes it’s a show that will fill the festive slot very nicely indeed: “It’s the brightest and happiest show that you will ever see. If you want a bit of joy over Christmas, then this is the show to see. The costumes are absolutely incredible, and the crowd is always up on its feet by the end of the night.

“The bright colours, the costumes, the drama... there are panto elements. There is no panto dame. It’s more serious than that. One of the characters is a transsexual , but really the story revolves around three characters. It’s a great piece of theatre.”

The show had a great time in Southampton earlier this year.

“Southern audiences can be quite tough to crack. The further north you go, the more rowdy the audiences get. When you go to Scotland, they are almost up on their feet before you have started. In the south, they are more discerning.”

So which does Graham prefer?

“To be honest, we win them all over by the end anyway. All audiences are as good as each other. In the south, it’s just that it is a slightly-different dynamic. I think they listen to the story more in the south. They come along more expectant. In that respect, it is quite nice to play to them because there is great heart in the story. In the north, they are just out for a good time!”

Graham was in the show in the West End and has been with it on tour since January this year: “All in all, my Priscilla experiences have been quite long. I did just under a year in the West End and then all this year now on tour.

“I definitely think that you do grow with it. You have to keep it fresh, not just for your sake, but for the audience’s sake as well. You always find new things in it, and with the different crowds you always find that things work differently. Virtually every other line is a gag. Some gags work better in some places than others.

“The main protagonist is a guy called Tick. He is the central figure. He has been on the drag scene in Sydney for many years. He has been working there for a long time. From a previous relationship, he has conceived a son who lives almost in the middle of Australia. He employs two friends (one of them played by Graham) to come with him on this journey of self-discovery.”

Songs along the way include dance-floor favourites such as It’s Raining Men, I Will Survive, Hot Stuff, Finally, Boogie Wonderland, Go West, Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, and I Love The Nightlife.