Theatre review: Pamela’s Palace, The Principal

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Fizzy wine, nibbles and small talk are the order of the day at Pamela Jones’ beauty salon, a place decked out in pure white fake marble columns and veil curtains, the empire from which Pamela rules the annual Salon of the Year contest.

Pamela’s Palace, The Principal (Venue 119) ****

Her stylists – brash and ambitious Tiffany and dry-witted Australian Bronwen – meet the ‘customers’ in the crowd, taking names and gowning some of them up. Pamela’s Palace is an interactive treat of the kind it’s impossible to grudge being roped into.

Let’s just say those glasses of wine, should the audience partake, help to loosen things up amid an in-the-round crowd who are all encouraged to join in with the fun –and this experience really is a lot of fun, a welcoming and communal party in which everyone is a potential client, hair model or judge of this year’s Salon of the Year contest.

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Played by the show’s creator Donna Gray, Pamela is an outstanding sitcom comic creation, a brash matriarch who struts and vogues her way through the salon as though it were a catwalk runway. She has imperial ambitions for her salon, both in the name – Scissor’s Palace – and in kitting the staff out in the attire of Greek goddesses, and it’s only moments before the judges arrive that Bronwen points out Caesar was a Roman.

Pamela’s sidekicks (Katie Grace Cooper as Tiffany and Ayesha Tansey as Bronwen) see through Pamela’s emperor’s new clothes, but this is very much a team game, and each performer gets to show off their considerable comic ability. The sequences which require interaction from members of the audience are easy-going and designed to highlight the foibles of the characters rather than pick on anyone, while the message which shines through the mayhem is a positive one – that women should stick together and that no-one’s self-image should be about pleasing others.

Where the comedy is strongest, however, is in the unexpectedly powerful and intricate formation dancing sequences and later in a convincing fight sequence. A lot of effort has gone into creating a real treat of a show.

• Until 27 August, 9pm.