Review by Malka Kovalenko

The fabulous Mother’s Ruin was everything you would expect from a queer cabaret, singing, dancing, and laughter. Sponsored by Nigel Kirkup, in celebration of his 45-year marriage to his husband Bryan Lee, the show beautifully pays homage to the longevity of the LGBTQ+ community. The colours are bright, the glitter is everywhere, and the underlying dark humour is subtly present.

The show begins with the host of the night, Lady Timberlina, who successfully managed to carry the piece with his vibrancy and humour. Timberlina’s performed his opening song effortlessly, and his enthusiasm was consistent throughout the show. I enjoyed how most of the colours of the rainbow were present in the outfits worn, with each colour representing a crucial aspect for each performer. I especially appreciated the theme of ‘envy’ expressed through Foo-Foo la Fresh and her vibrant green jumpsuit; very commendable. One of the acts that were particularly engaging to me was that of Victoria Firth and her beautiful re-telling of the classic ugly duckling tale. Her motherly tone and use of feathery props were playfully engaging, and I felt as though I was at nursery, listening to a simple yet profound story on acceptance and identity.

Most of the issues which I found problematic throughout the show were often cleverly rectified. The stage man, for example, would inconsistently appear in between acts to bring on a chair or clean the stage which, in any show, I believe, is a distracting element. Later identified as ‘Rob’, Lady Timberlina acknowledges him and encourages the audience to give him a round of applause for his hard work. In this way, Rob becomes a part of the act which makes the whole piece a lot more entertaining to watch. Aside from that, most of the show’s controversy stemmed from its use of shock humour; though it wasn’t always present, it was still noticeable. Deb Gatenby’s act, which explored the dark depths of anxiety was, for the most part, cleverly portrayed and humorous. However, when she talks about the benefits of Buddhism she states “let’s put it this way, you never hear of a Buddhist terrorist” which, judging by the very few people that laughed at this joke, the majority of the audience did not find funny. Whether it was because the joke was insensitive or just merely not amusing is hard to tell, but it may be pointing to the obvious fact that shock humour is becoming more and more outdated.

A few acts worth mentioning are Samir Kennedy and his soulful rendition of ‘As Long As He Needs Me’ and Rubyyy Jones who spoke and sang on empowerment, body positivity and the female orgasm. Kennedy performed the famous song from Oliver with a devil twist, allowing us to sympathise with this red heeled, tank top wearing demon. Without saying very much at all, the piece managed to express how people misunderstand the LGBTQ+ community. Jones’ act, which could easily have been a show by itself, reveals a woman in her “purest” form as she strips down fully naked with nipple tassels as the only item “covering” her. This artwork beautifully depicted femininity at its core. The piece that stood out to me the most, however, was the final act by Jonathan Mayor. The wit and humour came naturally to him and seemed the most refined and polished out of all of the acts; quick on his toes, the audience couldn’t stop laughing every step of the way. What made his performance stand out amongst the rest, though, was his passionate discussion on his everyday struggles of living as a black, gay man. He debates the idea that we are part of a snowflake generation and that he often acts too sensitively, but ultimately stays firm in his belief of demolishing discrimination by saying “if I’m going to be a snowflake, I’m going to be a steel snowflake”.

Mother’s Ruin was an overall joy to watch and a pleasure to be a part of as an audience member. With a few controversial elements, it still makes for a powerful performance.