Culture: Theatre

Review: Leslie Jordan – Fruit Fly

Leslie Jordan and his mum

Dame Vesta Bules, London’s premier female impersonator, reviews the indomitable Leslie Jordan’s return to London…

He’s the American Ronnie Corbett with his own unique brand of camp that has entertained millions in Will & Grace and Sordid Lives and now Leslie Jordan is back in London with his one man show, Fruit Fly, playing at the Leicester Square Theatre.

He may be tiny but Mr Jordan is a force to be reckoned with as he tries to answer the age old question ‘do gay men turn into their mothers?” through a symposium style stand-up show, complete with photographs from his past. From the moment he appears on stage to the moment he leaves it, we are treated to a series of reminiscences told in a delicious Southern accent that makes Blanche Devereaux sound like a trucker.

It’s a living biography and it’s peppered with anecdotes that will make you roar with laughter, but at times it can also be incredibly touching and poignant. It’s easy to see Mr Jordan as Beverley Leslie or Brother Boy and enjoy his outrageous campness, but what many of us forget is that he is the product of the Deep South at a time when the Jim Crow laws were still in effect across most Southern states. When Jordan recounts his misspent youth in a black speakeasy in Tennessee, it’s hard not to see him as something of a pioneer. He is one of millions who have lived a large portion of their life amongst a majority of anti-gay neighbours and perhaps this is the underlying reason for his showmanship – to amuse is to protect.

Jordan commands the stage with skill, transporting you to a beauty parlour, the aforementioned black speakeasy and his father’s graveside. Perhaps it’s his small stature and innocent grin that makes him so totally childlike, and through the performance we watch him grow to the much loved performer he is today.

He is the eight year old Leslie trying on his sister’s petticoats, he is the 13 year old Leslie with an STD (“Don’t judge me!”, he yells) and he is the 17 year old Leslie telling his long suffering mother that he wants to skip college and become a female impersonator. Whilst some of his humour is overtly American and some of the references need explaining, at no point does the audience feel that Mr Jordan is preaching. He is genuinely glad to recount his tale in the search for the answer to his question – and his conclusion is touching and heartfelt.

You feel privileged to have shared in such personal memories, but you also leave with a new take on your own relationship with your mother. Mr Jordan’s great talent is to share a message without appearing at all teacherlike and the audience loves him for it. At times, he wanders from the script and this can include rather long ad-libbed anecdotes, but luckily they are hilariously catty and so any extra time in the theatre is a joy without the usual seat shifters and coat rustlers.

Leslie Jordan – Fruit Fly is at The Leicester Square Theatre

13 – 16 March

Words: Dame Vesta Bules

Jump to comments
Scroll Top