Alternative FAQs – Recording Review

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It seems like the majority of my blogs start with my referencing the fact that We are going through some extremely difficult times with everything that is currently going on. The reasons for this are usually that the shows I review often play with the ideas of loneliness/isolation etc which is fairly similar to the lockdowns we have all be going through. The other reason is that I know there are people out there who have found this recent year and a bit extremely tough and want to make sure they do not feel alone! For a period of time, I was teaching students virtually from the confides on my bedroom (as this was the only space available in the house) through a laptop. The strange thing was that the students were encouraged not to have their videos or sound on due to child protection, household situations and possible distractions and so I was essentially talking to a screen for six hours a day! Trying to make sure students were engaged and doing the work is difficult when in the physical room but over zoom is near impossible. Any passers-by (or family for that matter) who saw me or heard me asking questions to a laptop must have thought that I was going a bit crazy and to be honest I think I was!

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This performance of “Alternative FAQ” was performed by the wonderfully mysterious Duchess Carpathia Bouffray, who is a drag artist, who answers some of the most frequently asked questions they receive. This almost youtube style Q and A show were intertwined with a plethora of original musical numbers which were all fairly entertaining. The questions included things such as what toilet do you use, what is your nationality etc and as I have not been following the duchess for a while, I cannot understand why people are so fascinated by these very personal questions. For others like me who are not familiar with this character, the duchess is a ruler from the fictional country of Kaftanada but has to adapt to life in Vegas. I have to admit that this movie being set in Vegas did sting a little bit as I was supposed to be travelling to Vegas last month but this Holliday was cancelled due to the global pandemic which was very devastating. This is absolutely a show for a more mature audience as it contains strong language and sexual references throughout but also the chaotic nature of the performance may be difficult to follow for a younger audience. The whole performance itself is very chaotic with the eccentric Duchess doing many scenes in the bathtub and bringing in a plethora of wonderfully weird characters throughout. My personal favourite was the talking felling character called Celine Dion (there is a pun in there which the Duchess made very clear) who spoke with a French accent like the iconic singer.

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While the show was incredibly wild and outrageous it still addressed some very serious issues. There was a massive discussion around the ideas of plagiarism and how generally speaking white people tend to rip off the ideas of black artists which led to Duchess talking about her embedded racial ignorance which is an issue that many people (unconsciously) still suffer with and is something that we as the humankind really need to improve on. During one of the FAQs about toilet usage, the Duchess becomes very irritated as they explained that this question is essentially asking about the genitalia you possess which is not acceptable in other situations so it shouldn’t be asked here either. These wild characters and serious, real-world characters were beautifully tied together in the final moments of the movie where the Duchess talked about how if she can learn about ideas such as racial ignorance, acceptance of other people and plagiarism via fictional characters then imagine we as a human can do with all the knowledge and resources we have. On a less political and serious note, we also have a cameo appearance with this movie from Dan Amboyer (who has appeared in Hawaii five-o, blue bloods and grand theft auto v) who plays a famous tv personality that the duchess has a crush on. It also showcases an alternative view of drag as a performance medium that many people may have forgotten about due to the rise in popularity of shows such as drag race which was very exciting.

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Overall, this was a very unique and interesting production that was extremely wild while still addressing some very serious/real-world issues. The sets were fairly minimal which means that it could easily be adapted and performed as a live production and/or tour which I would love to see! I do think the ideas of answering FAQs did get a little bit muddled towards the end of the movie but the important themes were still addressed which is great! I would rate this musical cabaret movie as 4 out of 5 stars!

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