Monday, 5 May 2014

Our Lady J's 'Gospel of Dolly' at Soho Theatre

Our Lady J has been back to these shores to play her 'The Gospel of Dolly' show for three nights at the Soho Theatre. These were her first shows in London since playing 'Gospel for the Godless' (also at Soho Theatre) four years ago.

Dolly is, of course, Dolly Parton, a hero of J's and someone who helped fund her boobs. In the show we're told how Dolly got in touch one day wanting to meet, talk about the show and give her blessing, which was nice. Dolly also suggested she includes 'The Seeker' in the show which J duly obliges.

On came the Train To Kill choir for the night, clustering around one side of the baby grand piano. They were followed by Our Lady J who got settled at the keyboard and then, with her glittery hand, began playing with one of her electronic doohickies to create the sound of a type-writer to use as the intro to '9 To 5', the first song of the evening.

She ran through a series of songs, some of Dolly's and some were her own in which the choir sometimes sang and sometimes stood silently. Inbetween songs we were regaled with tales of J's youth growing up in a small town that was half Amish and others of her praying to Marilyn Monroe in odd scenes of witchcraft while putting on her make-up (hey, if it works ...).

J made a brief reference to the current debate about the word 'tranny' and said she doesn't care what we call her provided we do so with respect. She explained why she moved from New York to Los Angeles a few years ago in that she was fed up with cat calls because she dressed like a tart whereas everyone in LA dressed like tarts so she blended in. A wise woman she is! She also told us that her family finally accepts her as the daughter they never had while telling stories of what she wanted to do when she grew up and her mother telling her she couldn't be the clergyman's wife since she wasn't a girl.

As well as Dolly classics such as 'I Will Always Love You', 'Islands In the Stream' and 'Just Because I'm A Woman' J also gave us her own classics of the delicious 'Pink Prada Purse' and 'Picture Of A Man'. The encore was J alone on stage singing a piano driven 'Creep'. At one point she told us that she was pleased that London was so godless since it meant there was a lot of work for her to do, bringing her gospel to the godless. She also seemed quietly chuffed to have sold out her show!

It was nice to get the chance to say hello to her again at the end of the show at the merch table. I was delighted that she remembered me from the show four years ago talking about her disco version of Buffy Sainte-Marie's 'Little Wheel Spin And Spin' and recent tweets. I was also delighted with the badge she was giving away with her CD of 'Picture Of A Man' that bore the legend, "Not gay as in HAPPY but queer as in FUCK YOU".

At one point in the show I wondered at J's quiet calm demeanour and how that contrasts with her inner strength and courage, deciding to leave her little town for New York and deciding to transition while teaching music. To be so young and know exactly what she needs to be and wants and then doing it. What kind of strength is that? How brave to face the world having decided to become your real self, the self you were meant to be? Good on you J and come back to this godless city soon - we need your gospel electric.

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