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Brighton Fringe 2012

A Right Pair

Betty Bourne & Paul Shaw

Genre: Drama


The Marlborough


Low Down

Hilarious and touching portrait of an off and on stage relationship across thirty years.


There’s a moment early on when Paul Shaw says,

     ” I want you to imagine that I am twenty years old.”

There’s a perfect pause before he says,

     “Take as long as you like”.

That gently self-deprecating comic timing sums up the professionalism of A Right Pair.  As someone said before the show,

      “They’ve been around for years, and they’re still terrific.”

The double act portrayed is one that was on stage as well as off and their joint story deftly weaves the story of both, moving from one to the other.  The stage life is the central one, and they have a wealth of theatrical performances to extract from, but it is underpinned by a very touching and lightly delivered sense of a strong relationship that has spanned the last thirty years.

The evening is full of well delivered cameos from and snippets of performances. Bette Bourne’s wonderful delivery of Lady Bracknell’s interrogation of Jack Worthing from The Importance of Being Earnest was so good – the deep drawling voice, the pinpoint delivery of each pause and emphasis.  Betty Bourne’s more flamboyant set pieces (what else from one of the world’s premier drag queens) are beautifully supported by Paul Shaw – but that does not detract from the considerable panache and comedy of his slightly less flamboyant, but skilfully delivered portrayals.  This was a partnership on display.

They touch lightly on what it was like to be part of the beginnings of the Gay Liberation movement, and there is much more to be said there (see here)  but this is mainly a personal and theatrical memoir.  Of course the Bloolips, the theatrical troupe they formed (“a troupe of anarchic gender bending actors, performing hilarious spoofs on sexuality and society” ), was at the forefront of  avante garde drag theatre, with productions like Get Hur and Lust in Space.

There was an incredibly warm audience response, equally from old comrades who were still coming to see them perform, and people who had never heard of them before. We sat next to a former member of the Bloolips, immaculately dressed, if rather hot, in a tweed suit and pearls, who gave us cup cakes just before the show started.  It summed up the warmth of the show which was suffused throughout this very professional and rich performance.