Cabaret and Variety review: Andrea Spisto: Butch Princesa, Heroes @ The SpiegelYurt, Edinburgh

Andrea Spisto: Butch Princesa, Heroes @The SpiegelYurt (Venue 327)
Andrea Spisto: Butch Princesa, Heroes @The SpiegelYurt (Venue 327)
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The cramped, possibly sweaty space of the SpiegelYurt becomes a “butch kingdom” – a warm, funny and critically engaged space of self-exploration and mutual support – in Andrea Spisto’s debut show.

Andrea Spisto: Butch Princesa, Heroes @ The SpiegelYurt * * * *

The cramped, possibly sweaty space of the SpiegelYurt becomes a “butch kingdom” – a warm, funny and critically engaged space of self-exploration and mutual support – in Andrea Spisto’s debut show.

Butch Princesa offers a kind of queer picaresque in sketches, songs and dance, taking in various aspects of Spisto’s past and present life, with fair warning that “real emotion” will be part of the mix too.

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It’s about the sharing. The material wittily and accessibly unpacks Spisto’s complex experiences related to sexuality, gender and migration, among other things. Colonialist erasure of indigenous cultures, for instance, plays out through a cute Harry Potter pastiche involving a South American tree frog frustrated by Hogwarts’ dominance of young people’s ideas of magic.

Rejection of normative female beauty standards, meanwhile, takes the form of a cocky rap number (“I can impregnate you with my leg hair!”). Elsewhere, droll and tender numbers engage with sex, drugs, loneliness and flat-shares.

Dance is used powerfully in various ways, taking in reggaeton explosions and parodic ballet as well as absurd sex mime and moving gestures of self-care.

The material is all about Spisto, then, and the show includes an admission of aspiring to be a pop star and indulgence in a musical-theatre fantasy.

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But rather than seeming like an exercise in millennial narcissism, Butch Princesa quickly emerges as a potent combination of intersectional critique and collective consideration. Spisto remains thoughtfully engaged with the audience throughout, in moments both gentle and exuberant.

There are parts of the journey that might benefit from less telling and more showing, and some of the work could be more fully realised, but the sincere and affecting attempt to make and hold a space of diverse, empathetic expression and care is utterly welcome. This kingdom is well worth a visit.

BEN WALTERS

Until 25 August

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