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Prom Kween (Edinburgh Fringe Festival): Review

prom kween Kween of the castle. Photograph: Courtesy of Aine Flanagan Productions.

Prom Kween is the not just the queer high school musical we need, but also the one we deserve. Rides through Edinburgh on a five-star open SLAAAAAY!

Last year herstory was made when Matthew Crisson was the first known non-binary person to become a Prom Queen in an American high school. Prom Kween joyously retells this story with music, drag, and lots and lots of fabulousness.

Book

High school coming of age stories aren’t particularly new. Grease, the paragon of these, has been around for decades, teaching young girls that complying to the male gaze is the only way to be happy (like, really. Think about it)! High School The Musical is also now as cult as other Disney films like Lion King, and Mean Girls is still one of the most hilarious, sardonic, and brilliant takes on teenage culture there is. But none of these have strong central queer characters. So, Rebecca Humphries, inspired by the true life story of Matthew Crisson, has sought to change this, and gurl, we’re happy they did!

It could have been so easy for Prom Kween to be derivative despite its truly inspiring real life material. Furthermore, when you enter the auditorium to the campest karaoke party in town with cast members smearing glitter on your faces in welcome, it could also very easily been a very basic and stereotypical representation of modern queer culture. But Humphries werks it to make Prom Kween into something that is the most fabulous shows in Edinburgh this year as well as one of the most genuinely uplifting.

Beneath Prom Kween’s campy teeny exterior lies an utterly savage wit that makes Olenna Tyrell look saintly. Humphries’ humour is so self-aware and so on-point that the laughs are thick and fast, from sending up modern teen culture to dishing plenty of political tea. What’s particularly interesting is, despite it’s youthful looks and energy, there are a good many jokes that are actually going to be appreciated by much older audiences as well as chiming with young adults just as crazily.

Despite an unhinged energy and attitude streamed into Prom Kween as if direct from a drag show, it never does the account of Matthew Crissons any disservice. Humphries’ text, despite the outrageous laughs, still keeps its key focus on the Matthew’s struggle of self-acceptance, the viciousness of high school social politics, and the enduring message of Crissons’ story about being the best you regardless of what other people think. It’s a brilliantly inspiring streak to it that’s immensely celebratory.

Music and Lyrics

The songs drive the rampant spunk of Prom Kween just as much as the text. The songs are catchy and lively embodying the same wit, self-awareness, and humour as Humphries’ writing. Indeed, the songs are also very smart and many musical theatre fans will certainly appreciate the nods to various iconic shows throughout. The music and lyrics of Prom Kween go hand in hand with the book and as a whole, it’s completely fantastic.

Performances

There’s a brilliant ensemble cast in Prom Kween. The idea that all the actors (bar one) playing Matthew is a really nice touch that galvanises Crisson’s non-binary identity. They’re all brilliant comic actors who tackle their cast of an entire high school, and the spirit visions of several camp icons, with tremendous aplomb. They’re all also key to generating an insanely fun and vibrant atmosphere in the theatre. Because of this, most of the time Prom Kween feels less like a musical and more like a party. They’re all absolutely faultless and irrepressible, really lifting the show to something absolutely epic.

Verdict

Tina Fey is apparently working on a Mean Girls musical. With Prom Kween hitting the scene: you in danger, girl! An obliterating glitter bomb that will destroy your misery, from which a fierce new you will arise.

Prom Kween plays at Underbelly Cowgate (Venue 61), until 27 August 2017. For times, tickets, and prices, visit tickets.edfringe.com.