Courtney Act the Girl From Oz performing at Underbelly’s Circus Hub on the Meadows brings more than a little touch of Australian drag-queen glamour to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe this year. If you are expecting though, judging from the advertising images for the show, a trip into the world of Oz in the books of L. Frank Baum, or a trip down the yellow brick road with Judy Garland from the classic film then forget it, this is the land of Oz of Courtney Act and a tongue in cheek tribute to all the music from the pop charts that we might not have realised was made by Australian artists. We do of course have some iconic references, the ruby red slippers are there in many different ruby red footwear variations.
Courtney Act aka Shane Gilberto Jenek for anyone out there who still does not know, is an Australian drag queen, entertainer, pop singer, and reality television star, and this show is very professional and slick in its presentation. Courtney Act knows exactly how to handle an audience and what to give them. This show is at an early 6 PM slot (Courtney, what even are you doing out of bed this early?), and the show is obviously adapted a bit to an audience for that time slot. I suspect that 6 PM is a bit early for Courtney Act to be truly “caught in the act” and that as the time goes on further into the night and early hours of the morning that Courtney’s behaviour deteriorates sharply as time goes along.
If an opening show version of Olivia Newton John’s “Xanadu” performed in ruby red roller skates does not for you set the tone for what is to come then nothing will. Courtney Act is a performer who makes no secret that she is not really a woman (as all the best drag queens do) and anyone coming to the show should have some idea of what to expect before they even enter the tent. Of course there are going to be sexual references and innuendo, but Courtney has a very tight and sharply scripted show here and the obvious experience to improvise when and as needed with the audience as she stylishly moves through the “great Australian pop music catalogue” taking in along the way of course some songs of Kylie Minogue.
Courtney Act as a live performer is actually far funnier and more endearing to an audience than any of the video clips shown during the show…humour that relies solely on the use of the F or C word just is not funny anymore and so outdated for any attempt at humour that I have no idea why performers or audiences seem to still find it funny…has humour not moved past this point in the 21st century? Even if the answer to that last question is a resounding and disappointing “NO”, then Courtney Act as a performance artist simply does not need it and is stylishly well above that level of humour.
This show was a sell out, no room in the tent left, and it was obvious to see why…Courtney Act and a vision of Oz that would either have had poor Dorothy never wanting to return to Kansas, or if she did leaving the poor girl traumatised forever. The show is fun, and for the most part done in very good taste and style.
Review by Tom King