There are some moments when you’re in a theatre and you suddenly have an out-of-body experience about the sheer craziness of what you’re experiencing. One of these occurred when I was sat in Queer Planet while a lobster in Downton Abbey period costume sang to me about wanting to be my lobster girlfriend. Bi-Curious George’s triumphantly queer, ostentatiously sexy and ecologically forensic tribute to the Animal Kingdom shines and shimmers in queer euphoria and environmental intrepidness.
The benches of the Cavern, a long and narrow theatre space in an old tunnel, are laid out in thing strips, and George turns the space into a spectacle reminiscent of watching Blue Planet in IMAX. With a David Attenborough husk to his voice and in full Boy Scout uniform, George races up and down the space bringing the crowd to a roar with his dominating stage presence. The fundamentals of the show are laid out – we’re here to experience the ways in which Queer animals express themselves through a series of Drag acts, puppetry and lip syncs that leave you winded with laughter.
George turns the audience into his own little zoo throughout the performance, by matchmaking audience members and casting the roles of different animals onto the onlookers with glee and delight. He effectively turns the audience into his own animal puppets, playing out mating rituals and raucous gay relationships with charm and glee. Luckily, this is done with a light touch, and George is so charismatic that he could sell an orgy to a Dolphin. Soon after engrossing us all, George assumes the mantle of a sex-starved but super-slow snail, inviting an audience member to lay on the ground and be fed lettuce by him. The lip sync choices here are hysterical, and as long as the audience are happy to be involved, George has a field day in teasing and coaxing the best you can get out of his animalistic drag.
Later sections involve guests being brought on stage – one aforementioned Lobster floating across the cavern in an ethereal but hilarious approach from the darkness to deliver a one-woman ballad, or a puppeteer turning plastic bags into joyful Jellyfish and suffering Snowmen. The piece is so wonderfully themed, with such a unique character that is carried across all of the acts who perform. George, as our ringmaster and King of the Queer Jungle, loops everything back together with the ethos of education. Voiceovers deliver factoids about gay animals that help to explain the chaos and craziness occurring down below. They are never too cumbersome, and allow us to get on with the best physical elements of the show. A little bit of sound mixing is needed to correct the levels of music and voice, but this is easily fixed.
The piece scrambles a little to get to different points of the show, and could do with a little tightening up on production to make it as semblant as it could be. No need to worry, though, you’re guaranteed to have an absolute blast from the second you walk in.
It’s super easy to fall head-over-heels into the inclusive but disorderly, slapdash but sensitive space that Queer Planet creates. Sexuality and gender are at the heart of the show, offering an ecological but non-scientific look at the eternal reality of homosexual animals. The piece’s philosophy is celebratory of a long history of queerness across all species, and in the finale George flips the script back at us to examine the gayest creatures of them all, human beings. It’s all so tightly controlled and well put together, even if George continually complains of his need for a stage manager, that it’s DIY charm and snappy wit captures you at every moment.
Get back to gay-ture with this hands-on, high energy adventure into the deepest corners of Queer Joy.
Recommended Drink: Queer Planet is a Grasshopper cocktail – minty fresh and gleefully gay.
Catch Queer Planet on the 4th March at 21:50 in the Cavern. Tickets are available through the VAULT Festival Box Office.