Sam Patterson was at the Wales Millennium Centre for Gallifrey Cabaret, a new cabaret show, inspired by Dr Who.
The Wales Millennium Centre’s new performance space, Cabaret, has been open for a couple of months now and we’ve already seen a delightful smorgasbord of acts take to the queer-friendly space. But now it’s time to hop aboard the LGBTARDIS and travel to far flung planets, times gone past, and to the farthest reaches of the universe. It’s time for Gallifrey Cabaret.
The brainchild of co-creators Reece Connolly and drag artist Carrot, this two-hour long romp is packed full of references to the longest-running sci-fi show on planet Earth, the BBC’s bread and butter, Doctor Who. A galactic array of Who-themed acts from lizard burlesque to alien stand-up are on display here, but the love for the show is most evident when our bow tie-wearing Time Lord host, Reece Connolly is on stage. His infectious energy and natural ease as compere sets the audience at ease immediately and he manages to steady the ship through some of the show’s occasionally slower parts. You can see how desperately in awe of the show he is and brings passion and verve to one of TV’s best roles. Imagine being to go anywhere in time and space. You’d struggle to find a better guide than Connolly.
Of course, the Doctor is nothing without his companions, and Carrot brings one of the show’s best-loved characters to the stage of Cardiff in the form of Donna Noble. There’s a delightful chaos to Carrot’s sending up of the Catherine Tate character which brings fun and charm to the show. Some of the show’s more creative aspects are spearheaded by this “non-binary drag vegetable,” including a rendition of Foundations by Kate Nash with lyrics rewritten to reflect Noble’s adventures through time and space which the audience howling. The show is unapologetically queer, featuring a cast made up entirely of LGBTQ+ performers, thus it’s no surprise that the cabaret would feature a segment dedicated to Astrid Peth, the character played by gay icon Kylie Minogue. In fact, one can imagine a whole show in which Carrot flits between some of the show’s most well-loved companions.
Some of the cabaret acts are entertaining and thematically on point. One notable act is that of performer Mariana Trench. Imagine you’ve travelled back to Victorian England aboard the TARDIS. You step out into the home of your friend Madame Vastra, a Silurian (read: lizard person) who lives with her wife Jenny Flint. In her full Victorian garb, Vastra turns the lights down low. Erotic music begins to play when you realise… a burlesque performance is your entertainment for the evening. But the thing about Victorian clothing is there’s rather a lot of it. Cue laughter.
Unfortunately, some of the other acts are grasping a little more at concepts that don’t quite fit and leave the show a little flat. Some acts get a large part of the way there but you are occasionally left wishing they had pushed it further. It’s not hard to envision a show with a wide variety of strong and unique acts but the performance at the WMC fell short of that. The entertainment factor was there for most of it, carried in large part by Carrot and Connolly’s chaotic camp. They don’t rely on big budgets are Hollywood special effects. They just rely on their love of the show, a cardboard cut-out of the TARDIS, a few props, and their faith that the audience are here to have a good time.
Some brief research for this review returned the knowledge that other Gallifrey Cabarets have different line-ups, though always commanded by the co-creators. As such, it’s important to note here that this review can only really surmise the show on 5th May at the WMC. With that in mind, it is worth saying that while some of the acts didn’t quite hit the mark in this reviewer’s eyes, the evening as a whole was wonderfully entertaining. As the lights finally came up, and we found ourselves back from our far-flung journeys, the audience had been changed for their travels with the Doctor and Donna. A frisson was in the air, people left smiling, and were clearly excited to venture off into the night in search of their next adventure.
More information about shows in the Cabaret venue at the Wales Millennium Centre is available here.