Dancing queens dazzle but plot totters
Miss Meena and the Masala Queens, Warwick Arts Centre, until May 20.
Odd to see a panto performed in May, even if it’s not intended to be one.
The case for ‘Oh, yes, it is,’ is evidenced by having two ugly sisters, a panto villain, a corny plot and comedy dancing from men dressed as women.
The setting, a run-down drag club in Brum, provides a platform for the odd questionable gag, too. As in “the gay murder mystery group meets here: they’re called the Sherlock Homos.”
But hang on, there’s story line which deals with a taboo: endemic homophobia in Asian cultures.
Cue chorus of ‘Oh, no, it’s Not Panto’ from those expecting a bit of Bolly in drag.
Miss Meena is a British Asian drag queen, ostracised by his Pakistani parents because of his homosexuality, who is wracked with guilt when his father dies.
He is torn between fighting to keep his club - which serves as a haven for Asian gays to ‘be themselves’ - and flying off to Pakistan for an arranged marriage.
Unlikely that such a pairing would survive the nuptials. About as much chance as joining panto with social comment and expecting both partners to be satisfied.
Especially when the serious stuff is clumsily handled and the characters unconvincing.
On the other hand the song and dance lip-sync routines sparkle, thanks in no small part to the comedy pairing of Pinky and Preetho (Vedi Roy and Harvey Dhadda, pictured above). .
Like a pair of camp Ugly Sisters with bhangra bones they come to the rescue and revive a flagging narrative with some hilarious sketches.
That said, the audience at Wednesday’s performance, which included a large percentage of Asian women, hugely enjoyed the whole play.
The finale was certainly worth the wait and everyone was on their feet as Meena launched into the gay anthem ‘I am what I am’
The play as a whole is less sure of itself. Time it came out as one thing or the other..