I've lived in or near Brighton for decades now. I like to go out and see things. I love a bit of camp. So quite how I'd missed the Lady Boys of Bangkok til last night I'll never know.
Actually, it's probably because although I like camp, I'm no great lover of drag and that's all this is, isn't it? They may be foreign boys dressed as gals, but they're still drag.
I also imagined that the tent would be heaving with drunken stag and hen nights, all vying to be the one chosen to go and make a tit of themselves on stage.
I was almost wrong about both and my view now includes those lovely things called nuances that seem to make everything seem a little sunnier.
The Lady Boys of Bangkok is essentially circus dressed up in very fancy frocks. The spandex is overwhelming, the sequins eye-watering, and the dwarf...well, more on the dwarf later.
Straight up, the selling point of this show is that they are all blokes. Indeed, the voiceover before the show booms that the 20-odd performers are all men and Thai nationals just incase you had wandered into the Sabai tent from your 20 years' isolation at the North Pole. Or you couldn't read the big letters on the posters.
The show kicks off with a Lady Boy with an oddly large face. I just couldn't stop looking at her large face. It was massive. Huge. David Walliams-huge. Later on, Claire Sweeney pranced about the stage. Well, not The Claire Sweeney, obviously. Then Jack Black of all people turned up. She was the comedy turn....
In fact, it was with the comedy that the show went so off key that I nearly fell off my seat.
"This is all a bit Roy 'Chubby' Brown,' I thought to myself as the interval neared and there, as if by magic, a miniature version of the man himself appeared leading us all in a rendition of the execrable 'Living Next Door to Alice'. The dwarf was one of the two purely comedic elements in the show, the other being a drag artiste who did an awful lot of mugging to the audience and who bore the uncanny resemblance to Jack Black at his gurning worst. The audience seemed to love both, so I shall say no more.
Audience participation was de rigeur although the performers knew how to scout the room and choose well, leading to less embarrassment than is usual at this type of thing. A cha-cha was formed at one point which snaked around the tent with the participants then being herded on stage to join in with 'YMCA'.
The music was a mixture of big buggery hits from the usual suspects - Cher, Tina Turner, Girls Aloud, Whitney - and specially recorded topical songs that were so badly sung and teeth-grindingly crude they were almost unbearable to listen to. And what the hell was a Santa version of 'I'm Sexy and I know it' doing in the mix at the beginning of Summer??
A mish-mash of straight drag, old style Northern club comedy, over-the-top musical numbers, panto and end of the pier acts, the Lady Boys cover all bases. It's such a strange hybrid of a show that it's impossible to pin down, much like I imagine music hall and variety used to be.
Having read all I've said you could well be forgiven for thinking I hated it but that's not the case at all. I did hate a lot of the humour, but the Lady Boys' musical numbers were on the whole stunning, charming and full of warmth. The crudity so apparent in the comedy was thankfully shunned by the main attraction who seemed to waft in on breezy, innocent wings, do their fabulous bits, and waft out again, smiling serenely throughout.
And the stag and hen dos in the tent? Good as gold the whole night through....