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Panti: High Heels in Low Places (Edinburgh Fringe): Review

high heels in low places Little Miss Bliss. Panti Bliss. Photograph: Public domain.

Panti: High Heels in Low Places drives a ravishing sequined stiletto straight to the heart of politics and diversity.


Irish drag queen and National Fucking Treasure, Panti Bliss, regales us with tales of her life and accidental activism in Panti: High Heels in Low Places.

Writing

After a rather ordinary and reasonable comment on Irish television, drag veteran Panti Bliss, suddenly found herself in the middle of an international storm and scandal. From local drag queen to international activist icon, Panti’s life took a phenomenal turn. In Panti: High Heels in Low Places, Panti takes the chance to chart “Pantigate” in her own words, chipping in with anecdotes and reflections of her life pre- and post- newfound recognition. Panti: High Heels in Low Places blends traditional drag performance with anecdotes and points of view to create a fluid and dynamic show that goes from laugh out loud quips to poignant and heartbreaking food for thought. It’s a balance that is gotten just right that makes this very engaging and varied from just an outright drag show, making it a bit more serious than just frivolous trannying about.

Panti’s drag banter is sublimely funny. It is the mark of a seasoned and exquisite drag performer who is still on top of their game. Yes, some of the jokes are a little close to the bone, but this is drag: you absolutely shouldn’t expect wholesome. But that’s not to say the tongue in cheek jokes aren’t funny, it just means you’ll feel a bit guilty for laughing. But what really marks Panti: High Heels in Low Places as a fantastic show are Panti’s musings on politics and diversity. Despite the campness of Panti as a character, there’s a highly intelligent and empathetic world view underneath the sequins and the wig. It’s fascinating and genuinely rousing to hear Panti speak with such cutting grace on subjects from homophobia, to women’s clothing, to immigration. These are all laced with outrageous quips but also deeply moving personal stories.

Panti: High Heels in Low Places blends a sense of fun and intelligent wit with a real sense of anger and deep introspection that makes for a heady cocktail of laughs and heartbreaks. There’s no other show like Panti: High Heels in Low Places because there simply isn’t anyone quite like Panti.

Direction & Production

There a nice little bit of production behind Panti: High Heels in Low Places that’s subtle but effective. It mostly comes down to delicate changes in the lighting with Panti Bliss’ change in moods and stories. Then, at the end, the tech really comes together to support a tremendous lip-sync finale.

Panti: High Heels in Low Places is also very well paced. The balance and the flow between drag patter and political soap-boxing is smooth and dynamic, giving Panti: High Heels in Low Places a real focus and direction making the show incredibly slick.

Performance

Behind the diva ego, what makes Panti so alluring is the sheer sincerity in her performance. Any anger, empathy, or anguish, is very real and genuine. As well as holding herself incredibly well in their polished drag persona and outrageous routines, there’s a real openness and connection developed throughout the show between Panti and her audience. Despite a National Fucking Treasure (no touching), it’s not that Panti lowers herself to our level, she raises us up to hers and leads the charge besides us.

Verdict

A raucous rallying for equality, Panti: High Heels in Low Places is a feisty and stirring fight-back, armed with glitter and razor-wire wit.

Panti: High Heels in Low Places was reviewed during its run at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, EH1 2ED, as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. For more information about the festival, visit tickets.edfringe.com.