Cabaret and variety review: Pollyanna

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People have different notions of paradise and the version on show in Pollyanna – which runs from Sundays to Thursdays at Paradise Palms throughout the Fringe – won’t be to everyone’s taste.

Star rating: ****

Venue: Paradise Palms (Venue 411)

People have different notions of paradise and the version on show in Pollyanna – which runs from Sundays to Thursdays at Paradise Palms throughout the Fringe – won’t be to everyone’s taste. One night’s line-up, for instance, involved gynaecological puppetry, politically-charged buttplugs and more than one glittery performer launching themselves into the crowd.

Billed as “intimate testbed cabaret”, Pollyanna is a late-night platform for experimental, transgressive performance. It’s defiantly queer, messy and a bona fide asset to the Fringe – not just for the shows it puts on but for the feelings and fun it foments.

The show is hosted by feral drag queen Pollyfilla, whose smeared maquillage, see-though plastic mac and gravelly voice are a strangely good fit for the venue’s faux-tropical trappings. As well as hosting, she offers a cover version of a cover version, imitating the eerie lip-synch routine from David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive and orchestrates a bravura Brexit-themed musical set-piece involving five audience members, a bunch of politicians’ faces and an EU flag planted in an unusual place. The show also provides well-curated excerpts from a diverse array of high-quality queer work from around the Fringe. Guest performers on Tuesday included Gender Spanner’s Jessica McKerlie, the Fabulous Punch and Judy crew and Lucy McCormick.

It’s all plenty rough around the edges. The seats fill up fast and the bar is noisy and distracting at the back, meaning neither punters nor performers can be too complacent if they want to make the most of the night. In the context of an ever-more-commercialised Fringe, it’s a down-and-dirty joy to find a regular free event showcasing material from beyond the mainstream and, as the show turns into a party, providing a space to keep the vibe going. Given the chance, people can find paradise in the strangest things.

Until 25 August. Today 11pm.

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