‘Once Upon A Time, in a land far, far away’, begin all rewarding fairy tales. Rightly so does Happily Ever Poofter: Untold Story of a Gay Fairytale Prince, a simultaneously hilarious and thoughtful show written and performed by Londoner, Rich Watkins.
Minimally staged in The Bally at Gluttony with a gesture of scenery presented on a hoisted banner, much of the show’s theatrics comes from Watkins’ assorted characters, each based on a Disney trope. We are first introduced to the titular Prince Henry Of The Southern Vale, who greets us with us with a cheerful “Good morrow, citizens!” He informs us that he is DTF – ‘determined to find’ true love as the only gay man in the kingdom.
Thus begins an epic adventure for our young Prince, introduced to the real world courtesy of his Fairy Godfather (portrayed by Watkins, with light pink cape, glasses and wand) and the audience collectively intoning, “I believe in fairies!”. Soon after, our hero finds himself recounting his various escapades, drawing inspiration from some well-known dwarves including Lazy, Sleepy, and Doc (who introduces Henry to a magic pill called P-r-E-P). Finally, he meets Happy (an audience member named Chris), whom all too brief romance ends unsuccessfully with Henry realising that to find true love, he will need to come out to his kingdom and rewrite his story.
Whereas less-skilled performers might have delivered a tired hour of fairy tale and yesteryear gay jokes, Watkins playfully blends the two, tactfully counterbalancing any cringe with a keen awareness of contemporary queer culture. Key amongst this is the heteronormative trope of ‘boy meets girl’, which Watkins succinctly critiques as nonsensical in a post-binary world.
Happily Ever Poofter’s music is deliciously tacky, with lust orchestral sampling conjuring an Alan Menken score. Many of the tracks are parodies of canonical Disney songs, including ‘In The Scene’, which reinterprets ‘Be Our Guest’ with kickline intact, and ‘High Hoe’, a character song for Mr Sleepy described by Prince Henry as “Disney On Ice”. Other scenes pay tribute to Frozen (‘Let It Show’) and The Lion King (‘Coming Out To The King), the latter showcasing an epic voguing routing replete with finale death drop.
A resounding quote that continually emerges throughout the show is that “it takes one person to write a fairy tale, but a community to make it magic”. Based on the audience response across the night, Happily Ever Poofter delivers on both counts, with a fantastical story presented by Watkins’ and team, well deserving of many retellings in lands far, far away.
Reviewed performance: 25 February 2020