Multiple award-winning comedian Gillian English has already given seven different shows the world tour treatment. You don’t get that far without talent, stories worth telling and a tiny slice of luck. In Drag Queen Stole My Dress, English clearly has all three. Her comedy show is a talk through the trials and tribulations of discovering her own identity and limits amidst a furore of difficult relationships, growing up in the middle of nowhere, and working as a showgirl.
English’s show runs at a rapid pace. The very funny story about the drag queen feels like little more than a footnote by the end. She addresses the audience adorned as best as she can with her old wedding dress. This is not the dress that is stolen, although her wedding dress has its own amusing backstory. English has such an obvious gift for storytelling. Not any old storytelling, but like a kind of educated, purposeful gossip. It is gripping to listen to, and you wonder where on earth the time goes as you soak up every detail of her story – from the terrific to the tragic.
The Voodoo Rooms proves the perfect space for English’s act. Even with a small crowd the atmosphere is one of intimacy. It encourages the kind of endearing stories you would enjoy with friends on the couch over a bottle of wine (although maybe not for an unbroken hour). English’s style is a powerful one, her passion coming across crystal clear. Everything from growing up in rural Canada to the slow deterioration of her relationship avoids any downcast or sombre delivery. Equally, however, they are not seen through rose-tinted glasses. Instead, English delivers a heartfelt story that clearly means a lot to her, but may mean even more to her being able to turn it into a comedy show.
The Free Fringe is blessed to have a spoken word performer and comedian of English’s ability. Her comedy is so wonderfully accessible, and her descriptions of various places are so evocative you feel transported to a different place. She jokes that her qualifications in theatre and performance weren’t seen as too useful in the past – she worked while her boyfriend studied his ‘real’ degree. Yet it has given her the tools to put on a simple, effective show like this. A show worth catching before the Fringe is over.