Cabaret: Trucker in a tight fit

Written By: Cary Gee
Published: March 11, 2018 Last modified: March 13, 2018

Dina Martina: Creme de la Dregs
Soho Theatre, London

Looking like a trucker who has been poured into a mini dress and forgotten to say ‘when’, Dina Martina would be the first person to admit she can neither sing – at least not since tunes were invented – or dance, if that means moving in time to the beat the rest of us can hear. In the world of drag performers she is the rogue elephant, exiled from the rest of the herd for its own survival. Only Martina knows whether this makes appearing on stage more or less terrifying, but either way we, the audience, are warned to ‘keep our expectations low’.

My immediate expectation is that the extraordinary apparition before me will be felled by a cardiac arrest. Within minutes of taking the stage she becomes so breathless it seems impossible she can last the hour.

Not only does Seattle born Martina remain on her feet, she manages to high-kick her way through a selection of 80’s pop cheese (including Duran Duran and Diana Ross) between regaling us with a selection of anecdotes about her US upbringing that may or not be true, but are side-splittingly funny, not least because of her deliciously and judiciously inserted malapropisms.

She has no theme and ‘I don’t do continuity’. Instead we are obliged to take cover from a shrapnel shower as Martina pulls the pin on a series of random comedy grenades, her solecisms only adding to the general surreality. It’s like spending an hour with a demented Liza Minelli in the midst of a down period, or the girl at the hen party who is invited along to hold the handbags and keep the pretty girls entertained. Of course by the end of the evening you discover that the ‘fat one’ is in fact far nicer, funnier and kinder than the rest of the party put together and she instantly becomes your new best friend.

‘Isn’t it ironic?’ sings Martina, in a voice that sounds like she’s planing wood, proving that unlike the song’s composer, she actually understands what irony means, before she picks up a harmonica, and for the first time all evening, plays a note in tune. Dina Martina may be as mad as a throat-full of frogs but we left the theatre happier than when we arrived, and ultimately, isn’t that the point?

Dina Martina is at the Soho Theatre until March 17

About Cary Gee

Cary Gee is a freelance journalist and Tribune columnist