There’s a new woman in my life, and her name is Panti Bliss. Her latest show High Heels in Low Places is far from the veteran drag queen’s first, but proves an unforgettable introduction to her Liverpool audience; a city she had never appeared in before this weekend. Thank you, Homotopia.
Panti – and/ or Rory O’Neill – is, as she’ll explain throughout the show, a ‘national fucking treasure’ back home in Dublin; and this riotous, life-affirming 80-minute performance explains all that and much more. Hurtled into the spotlight on the back of an debate about homophobia and free speech that became known internationally as ‘Pantigate’, our heroine became an “accidental activist”, and the show not only gives chapter and verse of an extraordinary series of events – even for a seasoned queen – but an insight into a quite extraordinary life.
Panti speaks eloquently and with a searing honesty about everything from her HIV status to meeting Madonna; she can spin a yarn, her delivery and comic timing is quite excellent, and she has a real warmth and genuine humanity that shines through. Maybe it’s the Irish in her; even at her most crude (and things can get crude), Panti is still absurdly endearing, and hilariously funny. She often sashays into the audience as she addresses the crowd, but the show is tightly scripted so there’s no fear of descent into club-style camp, if that’s not your bag. It works wonderfully, is performed with admirable skill, and has a sweet and thought-provoking conclusion that gives an unexpectedly moving finale. It would be great to see her in Liverpool again.