Bianca Del Rio: Unsanitized ★★★

Bianca Del Rio: Unsanitized sees the clown in the gown emerge from the pandemic as caustic as ever.

Bianco Del Rio is unmissable.  Insofar as she is adorned in a beautifully tailored, canary yellow trouser suit as she takes to the stage, making her completely stand out from the black backdrop behind.  A thumb is cocked towards the monochrome theatre curtains, and an unmistakably gruff voice scathingly blames lesbian set designers for the venue’s total lack of glamour.  Hurricane Del Rio has made landfall in Edinburgh!

All images by Matt Crockett

For the uninitiated, originally the winner of series six of RuPaul’s Drag Race USA, Del Rio has become a global drag superstar, selling out both Carnegie Hall and Wembley Stadium with her last tour.  In Unsanitized she hits the road again to provide a profanity-woven update on how the pandemic has impacted her, and the multitudes she despises.  Absolutely nobody emerges unscathed, as it’s been a tough couple of years.

Focusing on the frustration of not being able to perform during lockdown, Del Rio screams at the audience “What is a drag queen without a show?”  “A man!” she responds, before relating the various alternate roles – mortician, child carer, porn fluffer – that had to be assumed in order to keep the wolf from the door.  Each segment ends with the same reoccurring, pandemic-related punchline that hilariously punctuates the whole show. 

Assumed to be occupying the expensive seats, those sitting in the front row of the audience are each made to account for what they did during the pandemic to be worthy of such a privileged position.  Del Rio’s rhetoric here is as shockingly direct and filthy as it is funny, glibly destroying someone’s fashion choice by snidely describing their outfit as “electric beige”, before turning to twin sisters to accuse them of being in a Sapphic, incestuous relationship. 

The near-the-knuckle nature of some – indeed, most – of the material is recognised as Del Rio thumbs through her prop joke book.  “The lesbian jokes are on page two, just wait until I get to the Jewish jokes on page seven!” she quips.  And when she does, indeed, reach for the material on that page, this is where the humour moves from unmissable to off target.

Del Rio was referred to by the New York Times as “Joan Rivers in drag” And Rivers frequently directed her biting humour at the Jewish community of which she was a member.  Del Rio’s humorous roasting of the LGBTQ+ community is similarly effective because it spotlights a grouping to which she herself belongs.  But the tired, Jewish-centred tropes forming, a thankfully small, part of Unsanitized would probably sound more familiar emerging from a 1970s working men’s club, than a Latina drag queen at the top of their game, and Del Rio’s talents are clearly better than this.

Unsanitized certainly delivers a raucously enjoyable evening of humour.  With Bianca Del Rio at the microphone, whatever your background, just don’t expect not to end up being a target of “the clown in a gown”.

Hurricane Del Rio makes a welcome return – just skip page seven – The Recs gives Unsanitized ★★★ (three stars)

Bianca Del Rio: Unsanitized Tickets

Bianca Del Rio: Unsanitized plays at Pleasance at EICC Lomond Theatre until 26 August

Book Tickets