Last summer I spent a few hours on a boat on the Thames in the company of deranged cabaret duo Kiki and Herb. It wasn't the first time I'd experienced life through the eyes of the gin-soaked Kiki, and won't be the last if I can help it. These lives shows fused a knowing irony of contemporary pop songs, skewed into barely recognisable, angst ridden torchsongs, with the desperate (and desperately sad) musings of a woman who's lived a coke-fuelled, battle-scarred life, and who still stands tall and does it her way. Justin Bond's slight frame holds this beast at bay until the moment she storms the room in a deluge of bitterness, rage and child-like innocence, making Liza look astonishingly well-adjusted.
It's difficult to make any connection between that night and this movie, as the energy and spontaneity of Kiki and Herb's live show is lost. The character is so firmly embedded in Bond, and so lived-in, that we never doubt for a moment that she exists - that the desperate naivety and need for acclaim is genuine. But the film relies solely on this personality, and offers very little to compare with the live experience. The build-up is too long, and despite the (often very funny) repartee it begins to flag. Without the songs and the tragedy of her past Kiki comes over as just another drag queen, all mouth and no trousers, and the bitching begins to drag after a while.
Kiki and Herb deserve immortality on the big screen, but this isn't it. They deserve to have their story told, their live show celebrated. But this film does none of those things. See them live.
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