Review: Candice McQueen: Nasty!

Candice McQueen: Nasty!

St James Cabaret, March 8

Candice (pronounced Can-dice) McQueen is the alter ego of Spanky, aka New Zealand’s own Rhys Morgan, and I wondered after the show why we ever let such a talent slip through our fingers

The brooding good looks of guitarist Robert Trippolino would have set some hearts aflutter as he started with a remake of Don McLean’s American Pie as Candice trips down a floodlit stairway oozing talent, glam and an outrageous sense of the Id, think Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard.

This entrance serves to introduce a potted history of gayness that had no bearing on the usual drag acts who like to mime to Liza (with a Z) or Babs. Here, McQueen can rap with the best as she disassembles a couple of Madonna songs (Revolver and Supernatural) and the Indigo Girls’ Blood and Fire, but it was a trip through time seeing Christ on the cross (Boy! That must hurt) or coming across Kate Mosque, that elicited lots of giggles.

Then we had the tall tale of Jack Dawson (Leonardo DiCaprio in Titanic) being a “faggot”. Being straight I missed all the signs at the time, but now it makes sense.

Make no mistake McQueen is a nasty sista! as she reimagines the tale of Orpheus and Eurydice, in the 1990s with River Phoenix in central casting replete with cultural references that just tripped off the half-spoken, half-sung tongue that it was almost like re-reading Armistead Maupin’s inclusion of everything significant of those days.

Hell turns out to be a place that has Mama Cass regurgitating that ham sandwich, Kurt Cobain, Etta James, Donna Summer, Amy Winehouse, even Karen Carpenter had put on some weight and on the turntables DJ Hades with a butch Oz accent.

It’s like Hotel California, you can check in anytime/but you can’t leave. Then we, the audience, empathised with McQueen’s loss of River, in a stunning emotional climax (if you’ll pardon the pun) that left us all silent. A grand tour de force.

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