Diane Chorley: Duchess Of Canvey (3 stars)

This article is from 2015

Diane Chorley: Duchess Of Canvey

Disappointing audience banter saved by enjoyable musical numbers

As diva cabaret star Diane Chorley makes her grand entrance beneath a faux-neon signature sign, the spotlight can't quite keep up with her. It's a nice (if unoriginal) motif, letting us know what to expect straight from the off. Tottering around like a tipsy aunt at a karaoke night, the drag singer fills in between songs with anecdotes from her glory days at the 'Canvey Island Club', liberally embellishing her tales by name-dropping passé 1980s celebrities.

Chorley's attempts at audience interaction are disappointingly stilted, limited to observations that certain folk resemble various famous people. When she points out that a man at the very front looks like hypnotist Paul McKenna, the joke's lost on those unable to see his face (almost everyone else in the room), yet it's a remark she keeps returning to. She'll occasionally drop in a cute observation such as a nice piece on Toby Carvery etiquette or a disastrous trip to Nando's, but while it's clear from her demeanour that she's not meant to be a great humourist, a laboured gag about Ian Dury's polio could well be the worst joke of the Fringe.

When Chorley sings, however, she shines. Accompanied by a downtrodden five-piece band, she's at her best when belting out the big notes, and her fellow musicians provide a nice languid undercurrent between songs. Diane Chorley's a passionate vocalist and a striking presence, effortlessly able to get her crowd on their feet. But without a sharp script, her improvisation is left wanting.

Underbelly Potterrow, 0844 545 8252, until 31 Aug, 10.30pm, £10.50–£12.50 (£9.50–£11.50).

Diane Chorley: Duchess of Canvey

  • 3 stars

Show And Tell supported by Soho Theatre Join Diane, former owner of 80s Essex nightclub The Flick, and her band, The Buffet, for a showbiz, late-night musical spectacular, with comic tales of her troubled and infamous past. 'Diane Chorley, fronting a tight indie pop band whilst recounting her 80s fall from grace, was the…