Review | #VAL – A Glittery Ode to Queer Men and Their Mums

#VAL: A Glittery Ode to Queer Men and Their Mums | Downstairs at The Maj| Until 15 Sept | ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

John O’Hara delivers a perfect cabaret show with his utterly fabulous latest work.

Combining stories of his childhood and how his mother Val accepted having a child who clearly different, along with a healthy dose of historic and recent queer rights battles, O’Hara takes us on an emotional journey.

Promising that we’ll leave with “glitter in your undies”, O’Hara launched into the show with powerful vocals and a giant stage presence. Joined by Andrew Kroenert who plays the acoustic guitar and provides additional backing vocals this show is simple, but flawless.

From tales of desperately wanting hot pink parachute pants the same as Danielle Minogue, to lusting after his cousin’s Barbie dolls, O’Hara brilliantly takes us back to a time of youthful confusion and enthusiasm. Filled with tales of coming out, gaining confidence and fitting into a family this was one hell of an entertaining hour.

Through out the show O’Hara uses a mix of well known and more obscure tunes to take us on a journey. While he used songs made famous by queer icons including Lady Gaga, Cher, George Michael and  Sia – each time he deployed an arrangement that made them fresh and thought provoking. On a few occasions there were clever mash-ups that combines several songs together to create an even greater impact.

O’Hara can be loud, camp and sassy, but this was balanced with moments that were thought provoking, and at one point – utterly heartbreaking. It’s the sign of an outstanding cabaret show if you can make the audience roar with laughter and sob their eyes out within minutes of each emotionally charged recollection.

O’Hara’s background in musical theatre shines through, he can really belt out a song like the biggest diva, and then morph into an angelic choirboy. Work out how you’re going to fit this show into your weekend schedule – it’s not to be missed.

Catch the show Downstairs at The Maj on Friday and Saturday 14-15 September. Get tickets from

Graeme Watson