Friday, 23 October 2015

"The Queen of Ireland" (Guardian 23/10/15)

The Queen of Ireland ****
Dir: Conor Horgan. With: Panti Bliss. 82 mins. No cert.

Where the recent Dressed As A Girl tailed a variety of drag artists, Conor Horgan’s documentary pursues just one – stand-up/activist Rory O’Neill, a.k.a. Panti Bliss – in order to describe a wider, often haphazard push for acceptance: as late as January 2014, O’Neill’s prime-time chatshow appearance sparked a major public row that engendered Panti’s most outspoken incarnation yet. Although Horgan catches a few rueful-reflective backstage moments, what makes O’Neill such an effective figurehead is his cheery, show-must-go-on equanimity: on living with HIV, he’s heard shrugging “I made my AIDS-y bed, now I must lie in it.” It takes time to get beyond the make-up – and for the salty putdowns to reformulate into impassioned speeches – but once there, Horgan’s film shapes up as a most pleasing portrait: watching Panti perform an inclusively ribald hometown gig after May’s affirmative gay marriage vote, we witness a once small, grey part of Ireland being dragged forward into what looks a kinder, funnier, more colourful future.

The Queen of Ireland opens in selected cinemas from today. 

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