Wise, witty autobiographical show from drag queen and 'national fucking treasure' Panti Bliss
Pretty much everybody at the the first date of this week-long Fringe engagement for Ireland’s premiere drag artist wondered how the hell it had ended up with a bright eyed and bushy tailed 10.30am press performance. Not least Panti Bliss herself: ‘I don’t know what combination of can-do attitude and drug psychosis persuaded you to come’, she growled, looking at us with mock-suspicion.
In fact the vagaries of the Traverse’s rotating time-slot system have played an unexpected blinder: ‘High Heels and Low Places’ is a wise, hilarious, foul-mouthed jolt to the system that felt beyond necessary to those of us feeling jaded after, er, less than a week of the festival.
It’s not a cabaret show at all, but rather an a very funny hour of autobiographical storytelling that is in essence a stand-up show by any other name. A stand-up comedy show with a lot of substance: it’s centred around Bliss’s unlikely elevation to Irish national icon after an anti-gay rights pressure group tried to sue her after she accused them of homophobia on national television. It is a brilliant, absurd story not widely known in Britain, and Bliss tells it with potty-mouthed glee and considerable wisdom in analysing the complainants’ motives. It’s not in fact enough material for an entire hour, but the other bits of the show contain the same mix of barbed wit and hard-won wisdom: a video of the time she blagged her way onto a popular US chat show is absurdly hilarious; an eloquent, impassioned explanation of the purpose of drag culture is punch-the-air brilliant.
At first I was a little taken aback by the genuine lack of irony Bliss seemed to exhibit when describing herself as a ‘national fucking treasure’. By the end, I thought: too fucking right.