Transgender actor Vonni lands ‘role of a lifetime’ in Gold Coast production Priscilla

When The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert hit cinema screens in 1994, the lead role of transgender character Bernadette Bassenger was played by English actor Terrence Stamp.

In 2006, the musical theater version premiered in Sydney and traveled around the world, including Broadway in the United States, and male actors were almost always cast in the role of Bernadette.

But now transgender performer Yvonne Britain, whose stage name is Vonni, has been cast in the lead role in the Gold Coast production, in what is believed to be an Australian first.

The Adelaide interpreter said it was the role of a lifetime.

“Absolutely beyond me to say that I will play Bernadette.”

Vonni (right) worked with fellow cabaret artist Carlotta (left) at Girls Sydney in the 1980s.(Provided: Vonni)

Vonni auditioned for the role and was cast alongside pop artist Paulini and transgender cabaret performer Carlotta, who was an original member of the longtime Sydney-based men’s revue Les Girls.

Transgender woman with blonde hair, a tiara and stage makeup.
Vonni says playing Bernadette in Priscilla is the “role of a lifetime”.(Provided: Vonni)

“I was in Girls and Bernadette’s character is a retired Girls performer,” Vonni said.

“I’ve been around Australia, I’ve been around by bus.

“I have lived the life of the person I represent.”

Producer Matt Ward said the casting of Bernadette’s character was based on talent.

“It’s an honor to share Bernadette’s story and it’s important for our team to make casting choices that elevate the humanity of her story.”

Krissy Johnson of the Australia Transgender Support Association Queensland (ATSAQ) said casting Vonni in the role was great news.

“I think a lot of people in the wider community have probably seen the original Priscilla Queen of the Desert, but it will show that we’re not that scary,” she said.

“Bernadette wasn’t that scary.

Man wearing blonde wig and makeup.
English male actor Terence Stamp played the transgender role of Bernadette Bassanger in the 1994 film.(Provided)

“Give trans people a chance”

Vonni said more theater and film producers need to give transgender people the opportunity to play transgender roles.

“We’re over there, we’re not under a brick,” she said.

“If they audition and they don’t fit, don’t kick them, move on.

The musical tells the story of two drag queens and a trans woman who head west from Sydney on a bus to perform a drag show in Alice Springs.

The three friends face a comedy of errors, quirky characters and homophobia.

Priscilla, Queen of the Desert opens at Star Gold Coast on July 16 and lasts until August 7.

An image from The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, with the silver wing costume.
The musical Priscilla, Queen of the Desert tells the story of two drag queens and a trans woman who travel by bus from Sydney to perform a drag show in Alice Springs.(Provided by: Alamy)


A monthly newsletter for LGBTQIA+ people and their allies, featuring stories about real people and their experiences of being queer.

Comments are closed.