Reviewer: Stephen M Hornby
Mother’s Ruin is established as a leading cabaret night, nurturing new talent and showcasing the best in queer performance. Their Puffball special is another glittering cornucopia of provocative, funny and beguiling acts that ensures there is enough sparkle on stage to more than match the splendour of the Royal Exchange Great Hall.
Our bearded host Timberlina is the perfect emcee, celebrating with varying degrees of indulgence the performers and occasionally becoming part of the acts herself. Her opening song about fat in the sewer system is compelling in its morbid strangeness and helps to set the tone for a night of the unpredictable. Mrs Johnjo offers a brilliant parody of the film Titanic, complete with a blue dancing teddy bear standing in for Leonardo DiCaprio, an iceberg and a great deadpan delivery of the key dramatic moments. Patrick Carroll-Fogg shows off his musical talent with a divine, defiant performance of ‘Pose the Question’. Joshua Hubbard Dance provides a quirky, staccato and highly original movement piece, like nothing you’ve seen before. Mother’s Ruin is an evening for which the word ‘eclectic’ is something on a understatement.
And then it’s time for the first star entrance of the night as Sheela Blige descends a convenient staircase and picks on a member of audience whose hair looks ‘thirsty’. Sheela has just three minutes to perform a makeover on their weave with hilarious results. Sheela Blige looks like a demented, augmented Dolly Parton and the contrast with her Moss Side attitude has the makings of comic greatness. It was a shame some of her comments were lost off mike and there seemed to be a few other issues with sound that lost lines and created problems for the performers, but they improvised around them with good grace.
Gareth Cutter performs one of the strangest acts of the night. Dressed as a sort of grown up Red Riding Hood, and playing the banjo, he sings a moving song with the refrain ‘Colour me in’ and then tells an adult fairy tale before linking back to the song at the end. Oddly, it works. Jackie Hagan delivers a stand-up comedy routine featuring her advice for life in a series of humorous rules, managing moments of real sincerity and illumination along the way. The second grand entrance of the night is made by Anna Phylactic, dressed in a kind of wonderful polka dot soufflé with amazing hair and make-up to complete the work of art that is her outfit. Anna Phylactic has the rare intensity of the best drag creations, funny and solicitous one moment, cruelly mocking the next, full of pathos a breath later, and brittle rage a moment after that. Her ‘Queen of the Fxxxxxg World’ song captured all these modes and makes her one of the most interesting drag performers around.
Mother’s Ruin Puffball Cabaret is a hugely funny, greatly varied and sharply intelligent show, the best in exploratory queer performance.
Runs until Monday 9th June