Review: Jinkx
Monsoon & Major Scales

The Drag Race superstar delivers a stunning performance at Home, Manchester with her new show The Ginger Snapped

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Winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race (season five), Seattle-born Jinkx Monsoon is quickly carving out a career for herself as a cabaret entertainer who is both musically talented and very, very funny.

This second theatre tour with pianist Major Scales (real name, Richard Andriessen), who wrote the original songs for the show, follows on from last year’s highly acclaimed The Vaudevillians. The set for the show is that they are there to play songs from their new album, The Ginger Snapped, but what unfolds on stage is much more than a batch of musical numbers. Jinkx is in a bad place, it’s revealed, the price of fame has taken its toll on her and she’s self-medicating with vodka and pills. The only way forward is for Major Scales to perform an on-stage intervention in the form of a therapy session.

With an arsenic-coated face, arched eyebrows and high hairline, Jinx channels both Bette Davis’s Baby Jane Hudson and Fanny Craddock, in a performance in which we’re treated to a great batch of original songs, flawlessly performed by Jinkx, whose voice ranges from rumbling tenor to a glass-shattering falsetto.

Unlike some of her contemporaries Jinkx doesn’t rely on insulting the audience to get her laughs or miming to terrible covers. Instead there are decent jokes to be had, including some ribbing about the British state of political affairs, our post-colonial hangover and Brexit of course.

To say this is darkly funny would be an understatement of both the darkness and the humour. Of course the narrative thrust of the performance, Jinkx’s onstage breakdown, is overblown and exaggerated, but it’s clear that we are really witnessing some truth here behind the comedy mask. Not only do we hear about the physical pain that’s involved in drag, but also the toll of fame and, perhaps even more revealingly, the confusion of being gender non-binary (which Jinkx’s real life alter-ego Jerick Hoffer defines as).

Big fans of RuPaul’s Drag Race will be in for a treat and anyone who doesn’t follow that programme will find a couple of jokes fly over their heads. One song in particular acts as a kind of Drag Race roll call.

It’s also a well-staged production. Jinkx reclines on a leather chaise longue to take part in her therapy, reaching for her Valium and vodka, while Major Scales sits behind his keyboards for the most part, leaping up now and again to act as backing singer and dancer. A large screen behind them is used to play a few comedy videos to go along with the musical numbers, including a brilliantly produced cartoon for one song that includes a host of references to the history of animation, from Mickey Mouse through to The Jetsons and the Power Puff Girls.

Behind all the music and laughter there’s also a surprisingly sombre and serious element to the show that adds genuine depth to the performance. This includes a powerful speech about the state of the world for LGBT people these days, where progress made over the last few decades seems to be under attack. To an audience that moments ago had been roaring with laughter, Jinkx reminds us that gay people are being “disappeared” in Russia and Brazil has just elected a president who says attacks on LGBT people are “patriotic”.

Rewarded with two well-deserved standing ovations, this is one of the best evenings of live entertainment I’ve seen for a long time. Highly recommended.

Jinkx Monsoon & Major Scales: The Ginger Snapped was on at Home, Manchester and moves on to the Dukes, Lancaster (9 April) and Crucible, Sheffield (4 June)

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