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Return of the Ladyboys!

Published on June 27th 2005.

Confusion reigned at the Lowry last week as local girls, boys and PR girls attended the opening show that mixes all three of those categories up in a big bowl and spits them out – The Ladyboys of Bangkok!

The very thought of going to see the Lady Boys of Bangkok brings out feelings and emotions that haven’t been felt since puberty. Dazed in a cold sweat of embarrassment / trepidation / intrigue / excitement / fear. Running the rollercoaster of male emotion, I found myself lying to friends about why I couldn’t play football that night before biting the bullet and getting the tram over to the Lowry….

The Thai Pavillion hosting the night was packed to the rafters for the return of the ladyboys, back for their third successive year by popular demand. A heady mixture of cabaret, with hits ranging from modern hits to classic Motown, the Ladyboys have been steadily engaging a growing following across the UK.

The presentation adds to the relaxed atmosphere - sitting on tables in a flat plan auditorium instead of your usual theatre seats, there was definite cosiness created, although it still didn’t stop a seedy chill running down my spine as the lights dimmed.

One of the biggest fears with such a show was that everyone would take themselves might take themselves too seriously – luckily, this wasn’t the case.

Hailing from Thailand, the land of smiles, 16 of the world’s most glamorous transvestites were on show to deliver an exotic mix of comedy and music.

Starting with an understated introduction, the ladyboys, and a few chaps to bring balance to the force, managed to meander through a few early numbers, before one of the highlights summed up the reasons for the early confusion. One of the ladymen stood halfway between the curtain, with one side of ‘his’ body suited and goateed up before turning 180 degrees to reveal a fully dressed ‘lady’.

The question of what people were looking for in going to see such a show was raised by one of the girls on our table at this point. Was it intrigue as to why this show has become so successful over the last couple of years? (many of the upcoming shows are a complete sell out).

Was it titillation? - As the night wore on, some of the red blooded alpha males dragged up onto the stage certainly seemed to be ‘turning’. Or was it to see a freak show? – That seemed to be the opinion of a few. But as the show continued, it became more apparent that everyone involved – the performers and the audience – were just up for a good laugh with no pretensions (even my retired squadron leader dad, complete with handlebar moustache, had taken my mum to see the show in Thaliand earlier in the year…).

In between trying to spot 5 o'clock shadows and other significant indications that these were just no more than Little Britain-style trannies, I spotted that the show rattled through a range of Abba classics and YMCA amongst others. By the time Holly Valance’s ‘Kiss’ came on, the crowd were in full voice and even a slight interruption for technical difficulties – the speakers got over excited as well – couldn't stop the show, the ladyboys returning for the final third to belt out Shania Twain’s ‘Man A Feel Like A Woman’ - never was there a more fitting song.

It took halfway through the set to get everyone up and dancing, mainly because everyone was staring in bewilderment at just how some of the stunning ladyboys weren’t actually bona fide women. It’s a good job they were performing a show rather than just out on the town in Manchester because come 11.30, a lot of blokes we know would be embarrassing themselves slightly…

The Ladyboys of Bangkok is on until July 30th at The Lowry.

The Lowry
The Thai Pavillion
Lowry Waterfront
Pier 9
Salford Quays
Tel: 0870 787 5780 www.thelowry.com

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