June is a wonderfully written story about Billy (behind the Queen), the expectations of a drag performer, second chances and living with arthritis. The show challenges preconceived notions of what a drag show should entail, even throwing in a particularly hilarious joke about heterosexuals attending drag shows just with the expectations of hearing Lady Gaga or ABBA songs.
The show is written by Shehrzadae Moeed feels as though we have been given exclusive access into Billy’s subconscious. The script follows Billy’s thought process during his time of getting back into the drag scene and is perfectly captured by the use of nervous rambles, repeated questions, dumb-founded silences and questioning his self-esteem. This is a pleasant change from the more traditional use of monologue for a one-person change, as it helps us to establish a relationship with Billy quicker and makes him more relatable.
Solo performer Stephen Ledger does an incredible job as both Billy and Miss June and has the audience rooting for him throughout. Ledger performs the show incredibly well, navigating all of the emotional moments as well as his comedic delivery wherein he really shines. The jokes are interspersed effortlessly into the script, and he manages to make them seem so effortless and natural. The jokes include the use of self-depreciation, sarcasm, tone changes, irony and some particularly funny references. These range from Jack the Ripper, to Elon Musk’s ‘X’, to a particularly cheeky mention of Andrew Lloyd Webber.
Despite being a drag show, Miss June (aptly named after Billy’s birth month and Pride month) only makes two appearances - at the beginning and at the end of the show. In all honesty, I loved this creative decision as it grounded the show in a more honest storytelling. It almost felt as though the curtain had lifted, and we were given a glimpse of what happens behind the scenes, a queen without her crown. The show doesn’t shy away from admitting the harsh truth of Miss June drawing in crowds and potential suitors, more than Billy would. The show uses the hour to really expand on what a drag show can mean and it was this element that I particularly respected and it left me feeling quite proud of the show.
My only issue with this show was a moment that irked me personally as a jab was made at theatre bloggers, particularly those starting out. As one myself, especially given the current unfortunate discussions circulating about these, it did feel a little unnecessary. Given the need for new and more diverse voices and writing, this comment doesn’t really belong in the otherwise rather mature piece of new writing. This mention stems from a more focused point where Billy calls out a theatre critic for trying to review a drag show, but ended up judging the industry from a more elitist perspective and that was a point that I did agree with.
The set is quite simple but cleverly designed. With a rather messy room (clothes strewn about and empty pizza boxes scattered around) and a large vanity mirror. This set works as a metaphor for how messy life has become. The mirror is used to transform into Miss June but to also face themself and project insecurities onto, with a lot of internalisation.
The show ends on a rather touching note with a review from Miss June’s first performance, wherein the review had written about Drag being more in the battles overcome, and personality, rather than the superficial looks of ideals (although careful not to put them down). Hearing this review, right before Miss June is about to take to the stage again, makes Billy’s decision to bring his crutch on stage completely perfect and real.
June is a brilliant piece of theatre that truly stands out. It runs at Theatre 503 for one additional night this evening (9th September). For more tickets and information, you can follow the link here.
AD | gifted tickets in return for an honest review