REVIEW: Sirens of the Silver Screen (Q Theatre)

Review by Ben Shand-Clennell

Offered as part of Auckland Pride Festival 2024, Sirens of the Silver Screen is a charming and energetic drag cabaret, which pays homage to the plots and songs of popular films. 

Miss Demeanour, Miss Givings, and Miss Manage provide renditions of songs which typify the nostalgia of films gone by. These performances were slotted into a loose narrative arc, which borrowed plot points from a vast pool of well-known movies. Sister Act, Notting Hill, James Bond, Star Wars, Titanic, and 10 Things I Hate About You, are but a small selection of the plots intimated. This created a very loose narrative drawing from multiple sources that the audience would be aware of, creating a nostalgia smorgasbord. Additionally, the loose narrative structure encourages the audience to suspend their disbelief, and play with the performers.

The performances are remarkable. The queens are very capable singers, and had great stage presence. Each gets ample solo and lead opportunities, and the harmonies are well-honed. The choreography, too, is well-executed and the queens do an excellent job of utilising the space with ease and grace. The performances are at their best when the queens are all onstage, and able to work off each other’s energy, movement, and singing. 

The performers incorporated lots of audience interaction, which was well-implemented and humorous. The queens gave audience members roles onstage, gave props out, bantered with the audience, and even presented a personalised singing telegram. In true drag style, there are many double entendres and much sexual innuendo. The exaggerated dialogue and gesture are reminiscent of vaudeville and pantomime, and work well within the style and artifice created.

The seven-piece live band is phenomenal, adding a dynamic range to the queens’ vocal performances and a vitality to the piece overall. The musicians are very technically proficient, and wend through the complicated changes and medleys with ease. They form a cohesive unit and create a sonic and spatial platform for the queens to build upon. The queens worked well within this set-up, and their vocals were often clear and articulate in the mix. The exception to this was that sometimes, during a musical crescendo, some dialogue would be lost. This was not often, and did not detract from the piece as a whole.

The set was reminiscent of a footlight stage, or a greenroom mirror, with incandescent lightbulb arrangements bordering the usable stage space. This was visually spectacular, and creates a suitably glitzy, but non-specific, backdrop for the performers to work within. The lighting design is fittingly complex and adds much to the queens’ costumes, the tone of the musical numbers, and the mood of the scenes. The costumes were numerous and stylistically delineated between the performers. The queens rarely stray from their individual colour schemes of pink (Miss Givings), purple (Miss Manage), and green (Miss Demeanour). The performers also utilise colourful lighting on neutral black costumes to convey many characters and moods. The speed of these costume changes is particularly impressive, as is the fact that the show keeps going while these changes occur. The costume changes are often masked by solo performances, voice-over narration, or audience interaction. The hybrid nature of these distractions means the pace and energy is kept high throughout the performance. 

Sirens of the Silver Screen is an entertaining and nostalgic piece, which is both visually and aurally spectacular. The set, costume, and lighting are fabulously lavish. The band are skilled, and give a vibrancy to the piece that a recorded track could never hope to replicate. The queens are strong and captivating performers, and present a sharp and unrelenting piece. 

Sirens of the Silver Screen plays at Q Theatre, from 22nd to 25th February 2024, and then embarks on a North Island Tour from 26th February to 10th March 2024.

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