Just under a year ago, we were invited to attend a family pride event, hosted by the queen of storytelling Mama G, in Stanley Arts centre! During our review on the event (which is available at https://rhysreviews.com/2021/07/06/mama-gs-family-pride-celebration/) I talked about how I came to the realisation at the end of the event that not only should children be allowed at such pride events but in fact, they should be encouraged to go! It is clear however that the state of Texas disagreed with this sentiment as they have since introduced legislation that bans minors (those under eighteen) from attending drag shows which essentially prevents them from attending pride events. Not only is this new law non-sensical but also is extremely damaging for any young LGBT people who use such events to form vital relationships! We are fairly lucky in the UK that we have a government who at the bare minimum acknowledges the existence of queer people (unlike those who choose to ignore queer-friendly representation in media, such as the newest buzz lightyear movie which we discussed at https://rhysreviews.com/2022/06/19/lightyear-screening-review/) and this year marks the return of Cardiff pride which is an event we are very excited to attend! However one pride event is not enough for us, so we decided for the second year in a row we would board the Megabus and take the long journey from Cardiff to South Norwood in London so we could attend Mama G’s family pride event!
At last year’s show, we were lucky enough to be able to sit down for a chat with Britain’s got talent gold buzzer recipient and queen of Crumble Lorraine Bowen which you can watch out the interview at https://youtu.be/fjQ6-CJF2oA. Going into this year, however, Lorraine was not the only BGT alum to appear at the family pride event! If you followed this year’s iteration of the show you will be familiar with the fabulous group known simply as Dame nation. The faction was made up of Pantomime dames from all over the UK and sung about what makes panto such a celebrated art form (if you have not watched their performance you can do so at https://youtu.be/fV1nIjtQLKU and was spearheaded by none other than the organiser of the family pride event Mama G! Not only did this queen organise the event but also helped to host the evening and also treated the audience to numerous performances such as a rendition of the YMCA which was cleverly parodied to spell out the letters LOVE which had everyone up and singing/dancing along! Later in the show, we also saw Mama G being joined by two of her Dame nation sisters (Namely Courtney Jackson and Bunny Galore) who performed a offered a dame crash course for three lucky audience members. The volunteers were hilariously painted with home bargains make-up palettes and put into fabulous costumes to parade across the stage which was met by thunderous applause from the audience. Each new queen was given a new drag name with a highlight being Sue Veneer which I personally found hilarious! It is abundantly clear that these three queens have a fantastic relationship outside of performing as they were able to entertain the crowd throughout while making it seem extremely natural alongside one another!
Later in the show, the audience was treated to a performance by Dame Courtney who liked incredible in a gorgeous pink fringe outfit while delivering an eccentric line-up of songs. The first number saw excerpts from Jenny from the block by Jenifer Lopez, What a Feeling by Irene Cara, Venus by Banna Rama and a splattering of Beyonce meaning that every audience member could have at least one song they could sing and dance along to! From my own experience, it is very hard to create a family-friendly show as you constantly run the risk of having a performance that is fun for the children but not the adults or vice versus. This rather unique mash-up by Courtney meant that every person could dance and enjoy the music regardless of the age bracket they fall into! The second performance from this queen however was a powerful mash-up of uplifting pride anthems. We saw sections of lyrics from You are beautiful by Christina Aguilera, Proud by Heather Small and True Colours by Cyndi Lauper all of which made for a very powerful series of songs performed beautifully by Dame Courtney!
The family pride event provided numerous opportunities for queer-friendly businesses to promote the work they do which can only have a positive effect on the small businesses involved. There were a collection of stalls at the event which sold badges, books and prints that you could browse at any point during the event! The line-up of the event contained a lot more storytellers that I would have anticipated with a series of writers sharing the work they have personally created! Simon James Green was first up with his story called “Llama Glamorama” which was the story of a Llama who loved to dance but feared how people would react if he shared this secret. The story ends with his llama friends also revealing their own secrets with one of them hilariously declaring they are in fact an alpaca! We also saw Olly from the incredibly popular YouTube channel Pop n Olly grace the stage to share a series of picture books on love and acceptance that he had created. My personal favourite was Kenny lives with Erica and Martina which tells the story of a new colourful family that is rejected by the black and white community they move into. Unusually, the end of the story sees the colourful family leave their home and missing the small change they influence in the local community. The children watching Olly share his stories clearly really enjoyed the cartoon nature of his books and enjoyed the messages they shared as a collection of them gathered at the front of the stage transfixed by Olly and his stories! We were lucky enough to be able to chat to Olly after his performance about his YouTube channel and why he thinks family pride events are so important which you can check out at https://youtu.be/1KNFa6h3VcY. Going into the event I was very excited about seeing Richard Energy performers as I know they have just come from a run on the west end in the drag murder mystery show Death Drop alongside Ru Paul’s drag race alumni! Richard deserves some praise for being able to deal with a very group of very excited children in the audience who constantly shouted out during their story. After sharing the story of a snail without a shell, They delivered an extremely unique performance where they donned the persona of Angela the fish (with a wonderfully eccentric headpiece) who shared some musing to the audience such as “is a slug just a homeless snail” and “whatever there truly is no party like an s club party?” I think these puzzling thoughts may have slightly gone over the heads of the younger audience members who were so involved during the earlier snail story but the adults in the audience were in historical throughout!
During the dame crash course delivered by Dame nation earlier in the show, we were introduced to Sue Veneer whose real-life wife was also one of the performers in this year’s line-up! The west ends first-ever Tracy Turnblad, Leanne Jones opened her section of the show with a beautiful rendition of “Good morning Baltimore” from the musical hairspray! She also treated the audience to an incredible performance of “from now on” from the greatest showman that had me personally very close to tears! We were also lucky enough to chat with Leanne after her performance where we talked about the impact that Hairspray has had and why she thinks that children should be encouraged to attend pride events which you can watch at https://youtu.be/rKY7J6m8qoY. One of my favourite acts throughout the whole pride event would have to be Britain’s first-ever openly gay, Muslim drag queen Asifa Lahore. She started her act with a brilliant parade of Barbi Girl by Aqua that was all about her Punjabi heritage including the inclusion of the native language. She went on then to deliver another parody but this time it was of the iconic “Spice up your life” but Asifa’s lyrics were all about the nation’s love of curry! Any queen who managed to perform a song all about food is a queen after my own heart! Her act, rather strangely, finished with a rendition of “Big spender” by the Welsh icon Shirley Bassey which while was performed fantastically, I couldn’t quite get the connection of her previous songs! We also saw an appearance by the co-winner of got to dance Chris Donnelley who delivered a miniature dance lesson that had the audience up and getting involved! Chris deserves the same praise as Richard Energy was given earlier as he was also swamped by kids on stage during his number but he was still able to deliver his act excellently. We were able to chat to Chris after his performance where we talked about his journey with dance and his experience of panto/pride which you can check out at https://youtu.be/uih2UyygkGY
Overall, Mama G’s family pride event was a fantastic evening of celebrating being yourself and accepting others! It provided entertainment for the whole family while also granting an opportunity for queer-friendly businesses to promote what they do! The event itself helped to vital raise funds for Mermaids which is a charity that supports those suffering from gender dysphoria so the audience can sit back and enjoy the wonderful entertainment while knowing they are helping an incredible cause! I would rate the event 4.5 stars out of 5!