Cabaret & variety review: Dandy Darkly: Myth Mouth!

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A camp caveman invents art to distract his bullies. A Greek goddess suffers the rape culture infecting Mount Olympus.

Star rating: ****

Venue: CC Bloom’s (Venue 171)

The first dog in space laps up the state propaganda she is fed. And a lonely professor gets hooked on futuristic online love… This is the latest cluster of freaky yet strangely familiar tales from the fiercely fecund mind of Dandy Darkly, the queer clown storyteller from the American south whose solo shows are an offbeat highlight of the Fringe.

Darkly looks extraordinary: a miniature white top hat-cum-bishop’s mitre perches above his moustachioed Pierrot-Divine face; his considerable frame clad in mother-of-pearl Lycra adorned with shoulder pads that could take your eye out. The cleverly controlled camp of his physicality is striking too. But his words are the thing. He weaves compelling narratives that are set in grotesque realms of eerie, alarming detail, expressed through mesmerising, finely wrought doggerel, and accompanied by a sophisticated running soundtrack of bespoke music and sound effects.

Myth Mouth! is his fourth show in this mode and has the least erotic sensuality. It’s also his strongest work yet. There’s a powerful cohesion to the stories’ engagement with very different kinds of mythologising, from the primal functions of art and religion to socially and politically motivated misinformation and the magical thinking underpinning personal compulsions. His version of Persephone, the young goddess married off to Hades, is a clued-up party girl subjected to the disdain of “the real housewives of Olympus”; his version of Laika is a militarised pup pitted against scheming cats from Mars; his lovelorn professor is adrift in a richly cinematic world of addictive implants and metal-headed Medusas; and Cha Cha, the caveman myth-maker, is a brilliant and touching emblem of fruitfully mixed-up artists everywhere. It’s unlike anything else at the Fringe.

Until 28 August. Today 6:45pm.

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