Paul Diello has had a good run with this glorious show, selling out at last year’s Brighton Fringe, receiving 5 star reviews and a nomination for the LGBT Fringe award in 2017, so I’m delighted to be able to catch it this week, when he brings it back for LGBT history month, at the Phil Starr Pavilion.
The evening is a showcase of songs from some of Paul’s most loved female artists, who have inspired him in life and in music, from Joni Mitchell, Kate Bush, PJ Harvey, Bjork and Annie Lennox, amongst others. It’s a remarkable evening, combining song, story, film and interviews. His stories are personal, and important, and over the evening we are given a real insight into his childhood as he goes some way to enlighten us as to how it can feel growing up questioning your gender and sexuality, from a very young age.
There are some very funny moments – hitting puberty, developing man boobs and being thankful that he finally has the chest he’s always wanted, wishing he has Barbie, and Ken’s, ‘flat bits’ – as well as incredibly emotional songs. A tear inducing version of Sade’s ‘No Ordinary Love’, sung without his band, but accompanied by a video of him in Minnie mouse ears and make up, tears rolling down his cheeks, is stunning.
I love the addition of the film clips of some of these amazing women talking about gender, appearance and power in music. Madonna discussing how she has to think as a man as much as a woman, PJ Harvey’s response to comments by an interviewer, that she doesn’t think about whether she is beautiful, her career is music, not beauty. These are brilliant, successful musicians and we are encouraged through these additions to the evening, as well as Paul’s stories, to think about gender fluidity, to consider how prevalent, life altering and life affirming this is.
His band are brilliant. There is no crash of an overpowering drum kit, so often relied upon in a cabaret style show, what we have is a group of wonderfully talented musicians using double bass, guitar, Cajon and keyboards, as well as two glorious backing vocalists, to enhance the words Paul is singing for us. Portishead’s Glory Box brings all these performers together so perfectly, I think I’d probably go straight to their version next time I fancy listening to that song.
The show is being re-written ready for the 2018 Brighton Fringe in May, and I’m sure the evening will be as beautiful, funny, heart breaking, eye opening and relevant as the one we had. Highly recommended. 5/5
Review written by Laura Chatburn.
Paul Diello: Epicene was shown from Sunday 18th until Monday 19th March 2018 at the Philip Starr Pavilion. The show will also take place at The Brunswick, 1 Holland Road, Hove, BN3 1JF on Saturday 26th and Sunday 27th May, 8pm. For more information on the show, visit here…