Edinburgh Fringe 2019
The glittering drag queen, Ginger Johnson, takes the audience on a voyage to her ‘happy place’ – a safe haven where puppets and cornflakes abound. This show is presented in the guise of a cheerful children’s TV programme but it quickly becomes apparent that there are sinister underlying currents.
Ginger Johnson bursts onto the stage in a stunning pink and green lamé outfit adorned with ruffles, her signature red hair piled on top of her head and a face of immaculate make-up. We are welcomed to her ‘happy place’ where she escapes from the real world in times of need. Before this grand entrance, we see a CCTV recording of Ginger in a real world dressing room getting ready to take to the stage in a musical, but she collapses. Hence, why she has now appeared in her refuge filled with nostalgic furniture and jolly music.
This is a drag show with glamour, audience participation and witty tongue in cheek humour, however, behind this bombast there is a great deal of unease. Although this retreat is her way of blocking out the worries of the world, the worries creep in gradually. The songs become more deranged, the puppets more irksome, her make-up gradually melts. This all culminates in the most accurate depiction of how it feels to have a panic attack that I have ever witnessed. It is not pretty, but if you have experienced one you’ll definitely empathise.
All of this said, it is important to stress that this is a fun and funny show. Ginger is an engaging performer with abundant energy yet touching vulnerability who can expertly switch tone in the blink of a fake eyelash. The Muppet-esque puppets are charming and she uses them well to create off-key skits that remind me of disturbing YouTube series Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared. If you haven’t seen it, I wouldn’t advise watching close to bed time.
Overall, the blend of glitz and comedy with the sense of impending doom was very effective and well balanced. Somehow I came out of the performance feeling simultaneously entertained and, as someone who suffers from anxiety and panic attacks, I also felt ‘seen’. More collectively, the audience were all laughing together and felt comfortable to participate when asked: a testament to the generosity of Ginger as a performer.
She has created a meaningful show whilst retaining all the fabulousness and zest that one would expect from a drag act. A relatable and funny hour if you’re feeling overwhelmed by life – I highly recommend a trip to Ginger Johnson’s Happy Place.