Local Diva is an excellent one-person show written by Liam Salmon and starring Jacob Holloway as the fictitious diva Tragidean. Much of the narrative of the play unfolds in a stream-of-consciousness monologue where Tragidean unpacks their thoughts and feelings around “growing up gay in a Catholic school, working the drag circuit, and living through the provincial election.”
What makes this play so powerful is that Salmon’s writing seems to be perfectly within Holloway’s range. Or from another angle, Holloway seems to intimately understand every note in Salmon’s writing and delivers a powerful, moving performance. What’s clear to me is that both Salmon’s writing and Holloway’s acting are perfectly in tune with each other—no doubt director Owen Emblau must have had a huge rule to play here too—and that deeply impactful chemistry translated directly to the stage.
The synchronicity here, though, is not the only story. The site-specific theatre approach of performing the play in Edmonton’s Evolution Wonderlounge was such an inspired, necessary choice. There were many points in Salmon’s script where he lovingly describes the radical openness for possibilities that gay bars can represent, and being there in that same space that Salmon seemed to be describing added a layer of depth that no other venue could.
I think, too, the subject matter of the play hit some very difficult notes—homophobia, gender and sexuality-based violence, deeply problematic political climates—and I can imagine other plays and other productions that struggle to speak back to these issues. However Local Diva excels by talking about these issues in a way that seems both personal and honest, and the result is devastating.
Local Diva is an incredible gem that should not be missed.
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