EIF cabaret review: Alan Cumming is Not Acting His Age, Old College Quad, Edinburgh

He may have explored the grittier end of his cabaret repertoire in this EIF show, but Alan Cumming’s main aim was to celebrate life, writes Joyce McMillan

Alan Cumming PIC: Josh Going

EIF cabaret review: Alan Cumming is Not Acting His Age, Old College Quad, Edinburgh ****

Alan Cumming is a 21st century Scottish renaissance man; a Perthshire lad who grew up to be a superb actor, a powerful singer, a brilliant all-round entertainer, and a New York superstar, as well as a campaigner for Scottish independence and LGBT rights.

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Amazingly, Cumming is now 56; and in his latest cabaret show for the Edinburgh International Festival, he tackles the subject of ageing head-on, riffing on tales of death, cosmetic surgery and the getting of wisdom, between songs which include something of a show-stopper in the shape of a “Disney princess” medley; the cold, it seems, never bothered him anyway.

As the title of Cumming’s 2016 Edinburgh show made clear, he likes sappy songs, and perhaps sings a few too many of them.

It’s no accident that Cummings shot to transatlantic fame playing the MC in Cabaret, and there’s a notable surge in creative energy and intensity when he moves towards the grittier end of his cabaret repertoire, with songs like Is That All There Is? and It Was A Good Time; Cumming has all the gifts to make these hard-edged, brilliantly knowing songs work at maximum power.

His aim in this show, though, is not to excoriate the times, but to celebrate life, not least with some superb stories about stars ranging from Billie Jean King to Sean Connery; and with the help of a terrific four-piece band, he does it well, at a time when a little celebration – and sense of renaissance – has never been more necessary, or more welcome.

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