Edinburgh Festival Fringe: Known to London cabaret audiences as a regular compère at the Café de Paris and elsewhere, Australian-born Reuben Kaye brings his first solo show to the Fringe and it’s a doozy.
Assembly Checkpoint (Venue 322)
Kaye strikes a colossally fabulous pose, all bat-signal eyes, Joker-grin mouth and chandelier jewellery atop outrageous outfits placing him somewhere between dandy, drag queen and toreador. After tenderising us with gale-force charisma and a blizzard of bad-taste gags, he belts us with a bravura medley of ZZ Top and Brecht and Weill, high-kicking his way into audience members’ laps and expertly dealing in the moment with devotees and sceptics alike.
Backed by his stonking band, the Kaye Holes, and dynamic lighting, it’s an irresistible explosion of high-octane entertainment.Then, subtly, without our quite noticing it, the show cruises out into deeper, riskier waters. Through heightened anecdotal storytelling, Kaye takes us back to an immigrant childhood rich with classical culture, and high school years laced with that combination of longing, anxiety and self-discovery known to all teenagers but especially acute for the gay boy in the locker-room. Oh so seductively and empathetically, we are aligned with the aesthetically, erotically charged gaze of the adolescent outsider, sharing in his body’s weird and powerful negotiation of overlapping pain and desire, then swelling with pride at his defiant embrace of the fabulous armoury of glamour.
It is all the more impressive that this feat of expressive queerness is achieved without remotely dialling down the razzle-dazzle, skipping a high note or missing a highly comic beat.
With a set list ranging from Liza Minnelli’s Sailor Boys to a reclaimed Iggy Azalea hit – and a convincing proposal for a new Australian national anthem – it is a show and a half that also manages, despite Kaye’s explicit protests to the contrary, to “do something meaningful”.
Until 27 August. Today 9pm.