Myra Dubois was a staple of the cabaret scene for years before Simon Cowell came calling. Duetting with Amanda Holden, and cracking wise at Ant and Dec, is merely the beginning of the Britain’s Got Talent star’s gifts. Or so she would have you believe, with the launch of a new season of her agony aunt seminar A Problem Shared. A sometime live event, it is now beamed direct to handheld devices – and much (I suspect) has been lost in the transition.
If comedy craves a live audience, the same applies in spades to drag, which certainly as performed by Myra is all about flamboyance, playing to the gallery, and catty backchat with her “AdMyras”. Subtract a tangible audience, and you drastically cramp her style.
That’s not to say that Myra – AKA Gareth Joyner – doesn’t have resources to fall back on. You never see the strain as she extemporises solutions to problems tweeted in by fans, even when she’s running out of problems to solve. The advice and the “serenity breathing” exercises (“breathe in with resentment, breathe out with gratitude”) is consistently in Myra’s brash character, that familiar drag-queen combination of tartness and vainglory, corner of the mouth forever tugging down in grimaces at her correspondents’ vulgarity.
But her responses to the problems posed (What can I do about my smelly drains? Has my midlife crisis arrived too early?) are too often curt, seldom developing beyond chatter into fruitful comedy. We rely on a handful of songs to inject energy, as Myra duets with Barbra Streisand (comedian Sooz Kempner) on Enough Is Enough, and belts out her own number on being harvested for relics after her death.
That might raise the roof in a theatre – but it barely makes a laptop tremble. At one point, Myra accuses a correspondent of being, as if this were a breach of trust, “ironic”. But the whole experience is ironic: her fans’ questions exist only to tee up more glib Myra banter. None of it is meaningful, so it stands or falls on how funny it is from moment to moment. Her AdMyras may disagree, but I didn’t find it funny enough.