Prom Kween, Edinburgh Festival Fringe

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by Laura Kressly

If you were anything other than one of the popular kids, you probably hated school. Matthew’s in the process of coming out as nonbinary so they’re obviously having a bad time of it. Luckily, their best friend Binkie and his fairy godmother RuPaul have their back in this messy, glittery musical ode to being different.

Saturated with American pop culture references and left wing mockery of the alt-right, this musical, teen movie mashup celebrates the true story of Matthew Crisson, who was crowned prom queen of his NYC high school in 2016. This version of the story sees Matthew’s self-expression hampered by a religious, gun nut copper of a dad and popular girl Lexi, who has launched a hate campaign against him because he’s threatening her chances of winning the crown.

An imposing drag queen of colour plays RuPaul and something of a narrator, with an ensemble of four playing all other roles. They take turns playing Matthew, with a black woolly cap signifying the character. An on-stage pianist churns out recognisable pop hits belted out with new, recontexualised lyrics suiting the show’s story. Jokes and stereotypes abound, but they are attacked with such glee that it’s impossible to find them off-colour.

Matthew is misgendered as he/him on numerous occasions, which is either an unfortunate accident, or a deliberate choice considering they are not yet out of the closet. Though the latter would suit the story, the former is more appropriate to the partying tone the whole show takes.

This is still an outrageously fun show about self-acceptance and finding the inner strength to fight through adversity. Though the degree of multi-rolling is messy and the set is literally made out of paper and glitter, it’s celebratory of those that don’t fit in.

Prom Kween runs through 26 August.

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