Theatre review: Musik, Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh

Musik, Assembly Rooms (Venue 20)Musik, Assembly Rooms (Venue 20)
Musik, Assembly Rooms (Venue 20)
Following their 2001 collaboration on the musical Closer To Heaven, playwright Jonathan Harvey teams up again with the Pet Shop Boys for this gleefully irreverent one-woman cabaret.

Musik, Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh * * *

It chronicles the low life and high times of Closer’s narrator Billie Trix, a German émigré who pitches up in New York after the war and falls in with Andy Warhol’s Factory set of fabulous egotistical creatures.

The indomitable Frances Barber reprises the role of the rock’n’roll diva in corset and eye patch (move over Madonna) and a sculptural hat Grace Jones would probably claw her good eye out for. She sings with raspy alacrity of Billie’s outrageous exploits. Like a more knowing Forrest Gump, Billie has tangled with world leaders, and been present at many key moments in late 20th century culture, and she’s quite happy to take credit for it all as she barrels down the years, glass permanently charged, ticking off the popular references as she goes.

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The six Pet Shop Boys songs are a smorgasbord of styles, from the disco diva schtick of Ich Bin Musik to an eccentric inventory of soup flavours sung in the smoky croak of Marianne Faithfull. However, none come close to the duo’s best pop work. And without Barber buying in to her character so uproariously, Musik risks becoming a throwaway cultural tick-box exercise.

Until 24 August

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