In her first appearance at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Courtney Act brought Down Under up North, as this queen reminded us of all the great things to come from Australia (including herself, of course).
When Courtney Act first rolls on stage (in sparkly red roller skates, no less), we quickly realise what makes Act such a desirable drag queen. Adorned with bouncing blonde curls and a dress barely covering her 42 panelled, steel-core corset, Act certainly turns heads. While she is quick to describe her show as the “second-rate Lady Boys of Bangkok”, it is not surprising that Act had to constantly remind her audience that she is not biologically a woman. For while looks may be deceiving, Act’s vocals add yet another level to Act’s beguiling nature. While known for her voice – having appeared on Australian Idol and sung on RuPaul’s Drag Race – she still managed to amaze those who were already aware of her talent. Her “Lana del Rey/autumnal” rendition of the Bee Gee’s ‘Stayin’ Alive’ was mesmerising, and throughout the show she consistently pushed her vocal range to the extreme. Her Aussie repertoire allowed us to enjoy both modern and classic hits, with Act proving herself to be confident with any genre.
While the singing was stellar, the rest of the show sadly felt rather sedated. Act depends too much on her fame from RuPaul’s Drag Race, frequently making jokes at the expense of her competitors. This shade against her fellow queens is unnecessary and sometimes so predictable that the audience reach the punch line before Act does. This is all such a shame as Act is a very funny entertainer and does not need to rely on Drag Race and the show’s following. When Act goes solo, she excels as a ‘comedy queen’ – her comments on New Zealand’s Lorde are hilarious, and her discussion of Australian’s whorish/murderous heritage showcases her wit. Act even offers some musing on British politics, turning her attention in particular to Theresa May and Ruth Davidson. The Girl from Oz offers us a glimpse of Act’s real potential as a singing, ‘fishy’ and funny triple-threat; all of which Act is capable of, provided she stops telling herself Courtney Act means “Australian for third place”.
Nevertheless, Courtney Act: The Girl from Oz offers a great homage to all the greats from Australia – from Kylie Minogue to Vegemite – and Act is on her way to being up there as well.
Courtney Act: The Girl from Oz
Underbelly’s Circus Hub on The Meadows (Venue 360)
Until 26th August
Photo credit: Greg Baily