It’s been four years since alternative-cabaret A-listers Bourgeois & Maurice brought their stylish, scabrous, satirical songs to the Fringe and, geopolitically speaking, things haven’t been going well since.
Star rating: *****
Venue: Underbelly, Cowgate (Venue 61)
“I don’t know about you,” Bourgeois notes, “but I feel like Earth is having a bit of a wobble lately. Sort of Britney Spears circa 2007.”
The gag is typical of the dry, distanced tone of a duo who present themselves as ultra-glam high-status interdimensional sightseers – or, in their words, “drag aliens singing about politics”. Frontman Bourgeois (George Heyworth), whose eyelashes almost brush the front row, is an impish, narcissistic charmer. His sister Maurice (Liv Morris), at the keyboard and other instruments beneath towering black beehive hair, is deadpan to the point of morbidity. And from their wide-angle vantage point, celebrity culture and civil war seem like more or less equivalent facets of absurd human frailty.
In How to Save the World Without Really Trying, they sketch out the frankly terrifying contours of our flailing system with acerbic clarity through catchy tunes and devilish lyrics. Subjects include armchair activism and online opinionating, European decline and British hypocrisy; their “new national anthem” singles out time-honoured values like fish and chips, Operation Yewtree and selling arms to terrorists. One moment, Maurice melodically floats the idea of killing all men; the next, Bourgeois conveys his anxiety at not being invited to drug-fuelled gay orgies. (“I’m not saying I want 12 dicks in my arse. I’m just saying it might be nice to be asked.”) The tone is always clever, spiky and humane, never pompous or finger-wagging, and there’s even room for the odd glimmer of sincere emotion.
It’s also a very snazzy production. Bourgeois & Maurice are flanked by fluorescent tubes and a video screen that shows ingeniously absurd backdrops and askew interventions. And their wardrobe – always a highlight – includes looks that might be described as jester-velociraptor and intergalactic-SS chic. They also try on a few utopian ideas for size, from hedonism to dictatorship. Will you learn how to save the world? Sadly not. But you’ll be in excellent company as it continues to crumble.
Until 28 August. Tomorrow 9:25pm.