Thursday 14 September 2023

Stage: Be more Myra

Myra DuBois: Be Well
with Gareth Joyner, Lucy Frederick
Peacock Theatre • 13-16.Sep.23

Now on a national tour, the fabulous drag queen Myra DuBois makes a triumphant return to the West End with her new show, which takes on mindfulness and mental health in meaningful ways while also remaining resolutely ridiculous. Performers Gareth Joyner and Lucy Frederick are deeply dedicated to these characters, and rightly have a fiercely loyal fan base.

Frank Lavender is back as Myra's brother-in-law and opening act. An old school comic with dated material that's flatly offensive, Frank skates very closely to the edge but survives as a character who cleverly blurs the lines. So the humour comes from the delivery rather than the groan-worthy punchlines. And the audience involvement is hilarious because of how Frank plays it, making fun of himself at every step. All while his wife Rose, Myra's estranged twin sister, continually steals the show with her good-natured energy and the way she punctures Frank's ego at every turn.

After the interval, Myra takes the stage announcing her retirement from show business. Instead, she is going to lead the audience in a healing session. She has brought two leopard-print chairs and her tiger-print bar from home, and has a one-step process to share with us. She also sets out to find people with particular need in the audience, sensing their conditions and bringing them to the stage where she blithely continues her raucously funny chatter while insulting their clothing and mercilessly picking on hecklers.

Myra's syruppy tone amusingly conceals her bitterly nasty comments and expert double entendre, and she reels off one-liners so quickly that we can't catch them all. Her improvised comebacks are razor sharp, so fast that they elicit huge laughter. And while she's as self-deprecating as ever, she also knows that she has something special, so indulges in rather a lot of hilarious diva behaviour, happily pouring cocktails for herself while ignoring the guests seated on-stage.

All of this flows into a larger narrative, which she calls "abstract", looking at how Rose has betrayed Myra by publishing a tell-all autobiography. (Rose turns up to read excerpts.) And Myra has also been failed by her mother and her guru. Indeed, even as she is offering healing to others, she needs care herself. And maybe the answer is inside her. It's a delightfully simple gimmick that is so thoroughly winning that we'd happy follow Myra anywhere.

For information, SADLER'S WELLS >    


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