Edinburgh 2016: mid-Fringe round-up

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Clockwise from top left: Bourgeois & Maurice; Hot Brown Honey's MC Busty Beatz; Lili La Scala; Sven Ratzke; JOAN's LoUis CYfer; Miss Annabel Sings.

Clockwise from top left: Bourgeois & Maurice; Hot Brown Honey’s MC Busty Beatz; Lili La Scala; Sven Ratzke; JOAN’s LoUis CYfer; Miss Annabel Sings.

Posted by Ben Walters, August 17 2016, 13:00


Today marks the official halfway point of this year’s Edinburgh Fringe and, despite having been up here since August 6, I haven’t yet posted anything on my blog about it. That’s because I’ve been watching shows, writing about them for the Scotsman, organising the weekly Cabaret Chinwag panel event I do at Fringe Central and doing a little bit of socialising in between.

But this seems like a good time to bash out a quick, top-of-the-head mid-Fringe report. So, briefly and in alphabetical order, here’s what I’ve enjoyed so far.

NB I’ve written Scotsman reviews for many of these but they can take a while to materialise in print and even longer online – like so many others, they’re doing what they can with limited resources, and no, I don’t have any influence over the schedule.

There’s loads more great stuff out there too – exclusion from this list shouldn’t be taken as any indication that I don’t like a show or am not interested in it.

Information about all shows is on the Fringe website here.



Bourgeois & Maurice: How to Save the World Without Really Trying
The alt-cabaret A-listers’ latest show is their best yet, full of toe-tapping ditties to greet the apocalypse. Plus hot looks ranging from jester-velociraptor to intergalactic-SS.
Read my Scotsman review here

Cabaret Whore presents La Poule Plombée
A delectable full-length show for the tragique chanteuse created by Sarah-Louise Young and Michael Roulston. The duo’s second show, Roulston & Young: Songs for Lovers (and Other Idiots), is fab too.
Read my Scotsman review here

Dandy Darkly: Myth Mouth!
The American drag-clown storyteller’s latest suite of grotesque tales covers various forms of mythmaking, from the sissy caveman who invented art to the Real Housewives of Mount Olympus.
Read my Scotsman review here

Hot Brown Honey
Australian women of colour make awesome variety show about radical intersectional politics. Yes please. Come for the wokeness, stay for the woven-grass heels.
Read my Scotsman review here

The LipSinkers: Set on Mahogany Bluff
This phenomenal troupe treat the Fringe as a chance to stretch themselves in new directions and evolve over their time at the festival. This time the vibe is a bit darker. (I also love that from my rave review in last year’s Scotsman, they selected the phrase “like a shark” for their promotional materials.)
That review of last year’s show.

Every year at the Fringe, at least one cabaret act appears who seems to have fallen to earth from some strange, starry realm – and wants to transport you back there with them. This year, there’s Sven Ratzke, whose show Starman takes a selection of David Bowie’s most beloved songs and weaves them into a unique combination of ballsy rock gig, surreal storytelling saga and flirtatious, sensuous encounter. Backed by a cracking three-piece band, Ratzke turns on a dime from glam spectacle to kooky charm, savvy teasing to captivating soulfulness. And his tall tales suggest fever dreams of Genet, Warhol and vintage Hollywood. It’s a trip.
From a cabaret round-up in the print edition of Scotland on Sunday, August 14 2016



Briefs/Briefs Factory Presents Sweatshop
The ace Aussie boylesque-drag-circus troupe are back with more filthy fun, plus a spin-off late-night variety night with bite hosted by Miss Frisky.
Read my Scotsman review here.

The Fabulous Punch and Judy Show
This scabrous and vital Australian updating of Mr Punch as a tale of toxic masculinity is a shocking treat.
Read my Scotsman review here. Read last year’s review here

First Lady
George Orange’s memoir show about that time in 1992 when his boyfriend, Queer Nation drag queen Joan Jett Blakk, ran for president. Funny, educational, plenty of anecdotes about being fucked the hell up.
Scotsman review awaiting publication. Archive video of candidacy announcement here.

It’s a Kinda Magic!
As Houdini observed, a magician is in fact an actor playing the role of a magician. And when there are two of them on stage, they’re usually playing the role of a happy couple as well: friends or lovers whose collaborative rapport is meant to put us at our ease and provide a reassuring backdrop for the technical feats of wizardry on show. There’s plenty of mileage, therefore, in pulling at the seams of that relationship and seeing what happens when professional codependence is set against personal friction…
Duo Bogof are a long-married couple who are pretty much done with each other – he’s a continual disappointment to her, she’s an embarrassment to him and the show is basically a grinding material obligation, although they’re still capable of taking pleasure in it when it goes well. There’s considerable emotional depth here, partly through bittersweet comic videos that open up the pair’s lives in peculiar and affecting ways. And the tricks are highly inventive – not as magic per se but for the way they use video technology to play around with perception in simple yet conceptually ingenious ways.
From a Scotsman round-up of dysfunctionally-codependent magic shows, August 13 2016.

The latest set of latter-day Weimar satire from the Creative Martyrs is a powerful one. They’re making the most of the grim material available this year.
Read my Scotsman review here

Lynn Ruth Miller: I Love Men
This fantastic 82-year-old quadruple threat (singing, comedy, storytelling, burlesque) has three shows at this year’s Fringe, all of them worth catching, but this memoir about her various relationships is the most affecting and thought-provoking.
Read my review of Miller’s three shows here

Lucy McCormick: Triple Threat
Jesus Christ. This riotous, ingenious and obscene travesty of the New Testament features Lady Gaga, slut-drops, Nutella and a lot of anatomy. Sacrilicious!

Michael Griffiths: Cole
Having previously channelled Madonna and Annie Lennox, Griffiths turns to Cole Porter for his latest show to charmingly blend deadpan biographical role-play with elegant and original arrangements of classic songs.
Read my Scotsman review here

Puddles Pity Party: Let’s Go!
The sad, sad clown with the voice of gold is back with a tighter, warmer show. Watching the many facets of the show emerge is like seeing riders tumble out of a clown car. Just when you think that’s it, here’s another one…
Read my Scotsman review here

Revolution in the Magic Square
Socialist magician Ian Saville takes on a distinctly Corbynite persona as the new president of the ‘Magic Square’ to deliver some amusing and ingenious swipes at the state of the Labour party and the left in general.
Read my Scotsman review here

Tomás Ford’s Craptacular!
Euphoric and fraying at the edges, electro-cabaret one-off Tomás Ford is gunning for mainstream success with a set of cheesy-as-hell songs. Doesn’t matter. Still feels like the grin-inducing equivalent of a hostage situation.
Read my Scotsman review here



The one-off presentation of Frisky and Mannish’s Cabariot was terrific. I love that they chose to use the (relatively) mainstream platform generated by their superb pop pastiche shows to engage with various aspects of social and political injustice without getting preachy or pretentious.

A final mention too for a couple of cabaret shows at the Edinburgh International Festival (that’s the high-end classy fest that the Fringe originally sprang up around).

Alan Cumming Sings Sappy Songs is a potent showcase and well worth catching, though aspiring cabaret performers should note that the way Cumming got into it – Lincoln Center asked him to do a show and Liza Minnelli advised him over lunch to give it a go – is atypical. Read my Scotsman review here.

And Barry Humpries’ Weimar Cabaret, co-starring Meow Meow, was a superb excavation of the riches of Weimar cabaret composition and songmaking. Meow was sensational as always, including her delivery of Schulhoff’s heavy-breathing Sonata Erotica, which is essentially an orchestrated orgasm. I was also entranced by another spoken-orchestra piece (or whatever the proper term is), Toch’s Geographical Fugue.



(I Could Go On Singing) Over the Rainbow
FK Alexander sings songs and maybe you will too.

4D Cinema
Mamoru Iriguchi makes cinema happen on his body.

Christeene: Trigger
Stank witch wants us to get real in the woods.

David Mills: Shame!
Dry, dry, dry lounge-lizard storytelling/stand-up.

How to Win Against History
Musical about a debauched aristo.

Lady Rizo: Multiplied
Cabaret gloriana returns – with a baby!

Letters to Windsor House
Sh!t Theatre go postal.

Often Onstage
Figs in Wigs get extra dancey. Backstreet Boys tribute included.

Oh My Dad: Christ on a Bike
Jesus is struggling on Twitter.

Gameshow about gender.

Twonkey’s Drive-In: Jennifer’s Robot Arm
The debut play by worldmaking weirdo Mr Twonkey (also here with Twonkey’s Mumbo Jumbo Hotel)

Yeti’s – Demon Dive Bar
Sketch comedy from the creators of EastEnd Cabaret.



And if you’re in Edinburgh, come to Cabaret Chinwag! It’s at Fringe Central on Infirmary Street tomorrow (Thursday August 18) and next Thursday August 25. It’s free, starts with an hour of chat and lo-fi performance, and afterwards there’s a chance to hang out with free gin. Reserve a ticket here.

Last week, Bourgeois & Maurice, Lili La Scala and Hot Brown Honey’s MC Busty Beatz and Lisa Fa’alafi were all brilliant. Tomorrow’s guests are Starman’s Sven Ratzke; Miss Annabel Sings of C U Next Tuesday Cabaret, presented by Dive and Summerhall; and LoUis CYfer, aka Lucy Jane Parkinson, drag-king extraordinaire and star of the terrific show JOAN about original drag king Joan of Arc.

Stay tuned, more to come!