North East Post
A Voice of the Free Press
Phil Hopkins
Group Travel Editor & Theatre Correspondent
8:34 AM 11th February 2024

Divina’s Divine Darling!

Moving a drag act from a showbar backdrop to a larger cabaret cum theatre venue before delivering a comprehensive performance of two halves, takes more than tits, teeth and a string of one liners!

Photo: Kelvin Gray
Photo: Kelvin Gray
However, Divina de Campo, RuPaul’s Drag Race UK season 1 finalist, set out to do just that at the Howard Assembly Rooms in Leeds, last night, as part of Opera North’s celebration of queer histories and identities over the coming month.

Whilst a capacity crowd of multi-gender individuals whooped their appreciation of this four- octave range soprano, it was always going to be comedy for a very specific niche, hence the sexual ambiguity, the phallic use of the microphone and musical references to anal sex!

And, as you might imagine, it was slightly chaotic, dubious, funny and risqué, all rolled into one, but they lapped it up.

However, as a wider piece of comedy, performance or drag – call it what you will – this ‘show’ will always struggle to sustain itself for more than 90 minutes or, indeed, more than one viewing because of its limited, formulaic one-subject content.

Gags and nuanced comments related to gay sex were fine for last night’s audience, they really were, however, the slightly spurious theme, ‘Creating a Queen’ was, at best, superficial with its erratic PowerPoint slides, and did little to give the overall show more than ‘cock in a frock’ credibility.

Drag artists pedal a very specific art form but it is that art which not only creates its own show icons, but also imprisons the very stars it creates because there are only a narrow platform of gags and impressions to sustain any performance: Liza Minnelli and her mum, ‘Judy’ as well as the likes of Shirley Bassey, Tina Turner and a quick burst of I Am What I Am courtesy of Mr Herman’s La Cage Aux Folles.

Following her national exposure, Divina made her musical theatre debut in Chicago the Musical, later winning Best Performer in a Musical at the 2022 UK Theatre Awards for her starring role in the stage adaption of Hedwig and the Angry Inch.

And for fear of sounding condescending, which I am certainly not seeking to be, that is both brilliant and impressive, proving that Divina, aka Owen Richard Farrow from Brighouse, not only has that ‘something’ that allows her to cross to a very different art form, but that she is more than just a drag queen.

I had fun last night and the audience bathed in every minute of the show from its torch numbers to its dubious gags and glamorous frocks, but would I attend again?

Unlikely, but I take nothing from this experienced performer who has put the work in over the years with the result that she delivers top dollar drag for a very specific audience and leaves no one in doubt that she’s at the top of her game, however, niche.