BWW Review: BIANCA DEL RIO: IT'S JESTER JOKE, Wembley Arena
Accurately reviewing Bianca Del Rio's It's Jester Joke tour is perhaps one of the most challenging reports I've ever had to write. That's because so much of what I witnessed was quite frankly, and hilariously, unrepeatable.
If you're not familiar, del Rio - real name Roy Haylock - won the sixth season of RuPaul's Drag Race and has since become a breakout star, predominantly finding success as an insult comic. Earlier this year, she made her West End debut as Loco Chanelle in Everybody's Talking About Jamie and she has now embarked on an international tour, which sees her become the first ever drag queen to sell out Wembley Arena.
You don't come to a del Rio show for a virtual hug or for a warm and fuzzy feeling and a pat on the back. Our host wastes no time in getting straight down to business, and no one is safe in a set that insults straights, gays, lesbians, just about every ethnic minority, disability and "fat girls". It's hard, too, to be offended when this is all being spouted from a self confessed "clown in a gown". Del Rio makes her entrance in a floor-length pink sequin gown with blue balls on the shoulder and planted sporadically on top of her enormous neon orange wig, while taking regular sips of white wine.
The patter itself is structured with the intelligence you'd expect from a seasoned comedian. Just as we hit the depths of depravity, we're immediately scooped back up by del Rio screeching "Fun fact!" and delivering a bit of trivia to distract us from what we've just heard. Gags about Trump, Brexit and Theresa May - more specifically her dancing skills - come thick and fast: "That bitch couldn't catch a beat if it was a venereal disease".
We also hear about potential names del Rio considered for the tour before she landed on It's Jester Joke; one of them was "Clown Syndrome", which opens the doors to material on Down's syndrome and "midgets" - which you'll hate yourself for laughing at. Other observations follow about Facebook culture and her bemusement when she caught an episode of Channel 4's Naked Attraction. She also deploys another device, which becomes a running gag, of "my best friend" - which gets trotted out for whatever race she's about to insult.
Everything flows seamlessly, but at venues as large as Wembley there are going to be casual as well as hardcore fans. Just occasionally, the extensive and quite niche Drag Race references wear a little thin. Darienne Lake, Latrice Royale, Valentina and others all get a name check, and it feels a little lazy to presume such knowledge from such a vast audience.
And as much as my heart is full at seeing del Rio so effortlessly own a Wembley gig, it's a positively terrible venue for comedy. Even just halfway back on the central floor seating, I'm relying on a screen to get the best view of the star. You are constantly aware of people coming and going in your peripheral vision, and the flimsy seating means you're alerted to the slightest fidget - which means it's hard to stay focussed on the 75-minute set.
Grumbles aside, most would struggle to carry off such un-PC content, but del Rio makes us feel safe: she assures us from the off we're in our "safe corner" - in other words, we know what we've come for - and that it's OK to laugh. As the audience roar, she takes an indulgent glug of wine as she waits for the laughter to subside, knowing she's onto a winner.
It's Jester Joke touring until 24 September