John WatersHomotopia @ Philharmonic Hall 10/11/18
Gazing across the crowd in the Phil tonight is akin to being on the set of a JOHN WATERS movie. Beautifully sculptured moustaches, leopard print dresses, hair of every colour and some of the finest retro outfits outside of Baltimore. John Waters is back in town and we freaks just love it.
His last Homotopia appearance five years ago conjured similar scenes as he prowls the stage reminiscing about his movies and his Dreamland buddies; tales peppered with delicious obscenity and acid wit. This time round he has some perfect source material to work on, biting into Trump and getting his head around modern parenting in a time of accelerating political correctness. It’s not a trait Waters is known for. He announces that he wants to run for presidency – “Let’s face it, anyone can get in now” – and his plans are unsurprisingly sleazy in the extreme. At 71, his R-rated views on life should come across as unpleasantly sordid, but bad taste is his stock in trade. Therefore, he remains comfortably loveable and irresistibly hilarious.
His tirades plough mercilessly through topics of ‘can you be too gay?’, ‘can you be too straight?’, airline toilets and horrible children – each barb delivered in Waters’ Baltimore drawl and trademark sneer. Some obsessions remain, he still lusts after Bieber (despite his new-found religion) and has a new-found object of desire in Troye Sivan. Even here he manages not to descend into pure dirty uncle creepiness, just a theatrical playfulness.
Some of the material tonight has followed Waters round for years; we have already heard his list of favourite perversions: the snowman is a favourite, seriously out grossing tea-bagging. His on-set tales, working chronologically through his celluloid atrocities are also a regular feature of his show, but each time updated with tales of his cast’s exploits. Each character he treats as family with a genuine warmth. He tells of how he visited Cry Baby star Amy Locane in prison after a fatal accident due to drink driving; you can sense his sincere concern. With so many Dreamlanders now dead he talks of how he has already booked his plot alongside them in the cemetery, in an area he calls Disgraceland.
The usual perverse tales of early movies like Mondo Trasho and Pink Flamingos satisfy everyone and he ably justifies his move to the mainstream with the Hairspray musical by explaining how it has given a voice to so many overweight girls. His sadness for the early demise of his unique muse, Divine, is still present, and he tells how a statue is being planned to commemorate the star on the corner where a certain snack was consumed over 40 years ago.
When Waters invites the audience to ask questions his real humility shows. He loves his fans and never patronises with smart-ass answers. When someone says she is doing her dissertation on him he is clearly intrigued and grateful. The ninety-minute show is over too soon as Waters urges his crowd to contribute to keeping this world filthy. Virtually the entire audience rush to the foyer to meet their hero up close and personal with books to sign. It’s a lengthy but worthwhile wait as he treats each fan with respect and genuine interest. Despite his status as the world’s leading cult director, there resides no pretence.
Spending the evening in the presence of John Waters is an elevating, hilarious, intimate, and pleasantly shocking experience. You really do sense that you are in the room with a true living legend of absolute filth.