It’s always a good sign when a show takes most of its running time to get to its starting point and you don’t mind a bit.
Reuben Kaye, Assembly Checkpoint, Edinburgh * * * *
The Kaye Hole, Assembly Checkpoint, Edinburgh * * * *
Reuben Kaye’s bravura cabaret is nominally structured around a powerfully formative experience from his Australian adolescence but it’s a long time coming. Instead, we’re glamorously steamrollered by Kaye’s megawatt charm, room-filling voice, whipcrack timing and remorseless audience interaction.
The sequins and smut come flying at such a pace, and the mash-ups of, say, ZZ Top and Kurt Weill, command the attention such that you barely notice the growing roster of cultural references peppering Kaye’s material – a glance at the Brontës here, a cute disquisition on Berlini there – or indeed the increasingly barbed doses of social critique.
When, late in the show, the narrative does kick in, it turns out to be a superbly balanced miniature epic of longing and desire, glamour and violence, trauma and redemption – all delivered with eroticism and pathos tangled up with daringly camp absurdity.
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Having battered any normative defences into submission early on, Kaye has us wrapped round his little finger, leaving us both fascinated and appalled, before closing the deal with a showstopper. It’s quite the masterclass in using high entertainment to challenge and provoke without letting the joins show.
Meanwhile, at weekends, Kaye also hosts The Kaye Hole, an even more unbuttoned late-night variety spree. There’s some overlapping material, as you’d expect, but a looser, hair-down vibe makes for ramped-up audience entanglement and extra-macabre material.
As well as rotating guests from shows around the Fringe – the night I went featured master pop pasticheurs Frisky and Mannish and grotesque clowns The Long Pigs – there’s also cracking regular support from sensational fire-breathing burlesquer Kitty Bang Bang, stupendous sword-swallower Heather Holliday and compelling acrobatic contortionist Beau Sargent.
Both shows until 25 August.