Review by Daz Gale
Jordan Gray has been making headlines for more than one reason in recent months. Apart from creating an enormous buzz at this years Edinburgh Fringe, she also made headlines in a very different way after her performance on TV show Friday Night Live just seven days before the biggest show of her career. Now Jordan has brought her show Is It A Bird? to the iconic and huge London Palladium for one night only. But could all the hype ever do it justice?
If you are unfamiliar with Jordan Gray, she has been in the music business for 10 years including a memorable appearance on The Voice. Mixing live music with comedy, Jordans star has risen substantially in the last few months with a rollercoaster run of Edinburgh, a sold out run at Soho Theatre, THAT high profile (and much discussed) TV appearance and one of the most famous theatres in the West End, also making her the first transgender person to headline the Palladium in her own show.
Is It A Bird? talks about Jordans own life as a transgender woman with unexpected and often hilarious parallels to superheroes – hence the title of the show which takes a line often credited to Superman, though it’s Batman who gets the most references here. Probably not a show I’d recommend Bruce Wayne to see as his whole character gets completely assassinated. Poor man just can’t catch a break!
Playing the biggest headline show of her career, you wouldn’t have known this wasn’t an everyday occurrence for her as she effortlessly and coolly commanded every inch of the stage, leaving no doubt that this was where she was born to be. A carefully crafted show full of meticulous punchlines and humorous moments was regularly interrupted with ad-libs and audience interaction, all of which were included seamlessly as a testament to her professionalism and quick-wit.
You’d hope a comedy show would be full of jokes and thankfully there was no shortage of them here. A natural storyteller, Jordan ensured the audience were invested in her stories before delivering the punchline, never missing – even when the audience reaction was flatter than she might have anticipated, that too was turned into a joke. Highlights included a brilliant story about an Akita (Evita?) which came with an impression and a guest appearance that brought the house down.
It's not just the comedy that made Jordan Grays show such a riveting watch. Her impressive singing voice is not to be discounted because the content of the songs was comedic. All the numbers she performed were as tuneful as they were funny and all of a highly memorable standard. One particular number about the true identity of Jesus may not go down well with everyone but if comedy is meant to push boundaries, Jordan did this in the very best way and had me leaving there questioning everything I thought I knew about Jesus The final number ‘Better Than You’ has irritated Daily Mail viewers up and down the country. For that alone, she should be commended. Luckily, the Palladium audience were far more appreciative and responsive.
Jordans show comes with a nudity warning and sure enough she spends the final portion of her show in all her naked glory. Given the attitudes and prejudices trans people are increasingly facing from all walks of life, this was a powerful moment which challenged taboos and ensured every member of the audience shared the pride Jordan has for herself and everything she truly stands for.
While Is It A Bird? is at its heart a comedic show, there are serious tones to the stories that were being told. With jokes at Jordans own expense, she made it clear if people were going to laugh at her, she wanted to be in on it. An admirable response to the prejudices and terrible actions trans people face on a daily basis, this is a show with a whole lot of substance which hopefully goes to challenge attitudes from those who are far less accepting or understanding than the London Palladium audience were. An emotional moment towards the end saw Jordan share a message she received from someone struggling to accept themselves. The message Jordan is putting out there with this show will not only enrich peoples lives but put so much good out into the world. Bigots be damned!
Jordan Gray is an undeniable talent. While she has been slogging away for a decade, her rapid rise to notoriety this year is an accurate reflection of her skill. Its her charm, nature and wit that makes her such a captivating watch and with Is It A Bird she has crafted a fantastic show which perfectly showcases everything she has to offer, while putting something powerful back into the world. Throughout the show, Jordan regularly talks about superpowers. With the ability to make people laugh, smile and feel, she has no shortage of superpowers herself.
Photos by Dylan Woodley