The grand stage of Boulevard can be a daunting place for the most established of acts. For a relatively new double act still building a fan base, it could be terrifying. But if Lads and Lashes, aka Dixie Swallows and Penny Arcade, were feeling the pressure, they could have fooled us.
Their Christmas show, performed in the ‘purple palace’ for the first time, was a whirlwind of classic drag performances in parts; everything from Cher and Tina Turner to Grease and Rocky Horror, via Frozen, Abba and a bevy of festive frolics and it was these Christmas numbers that were the highlight for me. Although a little odd (it being almost mid-January) they were slick and stylish when necessary and hilariously funny when they needed to be. Rocky Horror and Grease also proved popular with punters, a room full of people doing the Time Warp and swaying in sync to Hopelessly Devoted To You not to be sniffed at. Dixie’s Cilla Black also brought the house down, a number which took in swinging 60s Cilla as well as Surprise Surprise TV host Cilla.
For me, however, the real revelation here was Penny. Having been unfamiliar with her cabaret act (after having her own act in Turkey a few years back, she was strictly a DJ in the bars of Newcastle by the time I got to them) I wasn’t sure what to expect. She was fantastic. A true pro, great mover and had the lip-synching down. Her version of Jingle Bells was a riot and her take on Danny in Grease was the perfect accompaniment to Dixie’s pill-popping Sandy. An out-of-control Amy Winehouse was predictable but saved by a sped-up, chipmunks-esque version of Valerie which genuinely had me in stitches.
The pair weren’t backed by a troupe of dancers or any over-the-top SFX, but did the best with what they had. A 20-foot Christmas tree and beautiful costumes were all they to help their numbers along.
The show could definitely have been cut a little shorter but didn’t matter too much as it was interspersed with breaks and witty banter from hostess Phyllis Tyne on the mic.
Was it generic in parts? Absolutely. But was it thoroughly entertaining and the perfect antidote to the January blues? Without a doubt. The show may have been unpolished in parts but that’s the fun with diamonds; and these two are definitely diamonds in the rough. I genuinely look forward to seeing what else they have up their sleeves, whether that’s Easter in June or Halloween in August – count me in.