Cabaret & variety: Betty Grumble: Love and Anger or Sex Clown Saves the World Again!)

Edinburgh Festival Fringe: 'Who's a bit confused already? Valid,' Betty Grumble acknowledges, after delivering what, at this early stage, I'm confident in describing as the most sensational, joyous, obscene and absurd opening number of this year's Fringe.

Grumble: Shocking, absorbing, radical and outrageous. Picture: George Sandman Popov
Grumble: Shocking, absorbing, radical and outrageous. Picture: George Sandman Popov

Heroes @ Monkey Barrell (Venue 515)


I won’t spoil the routine other than to say that, like the rest of Grumble’s show, it’s not for those with conservative ideas about which body parts should be displayed – or put to imaginative use – in performance.

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    Betty Grumble is a one-off, a provocative, precarious combination of clowning, drag, stripping, poetry and performance art put to the service of a radical politics that takes aim at social oppression, global capitalism and environmental catastrophe. The guiding spirit for her second Edinburgh show is Valerie Solanas, who shot Andy Warhol. “We don’t condone that,” Grumble says, “but we do condone the revenge fantasy.”

    The fantastical is where Love and Anger takes flight. The show’s overt moments of agitprop feel a bit forced and a section engaging with personal family history doesn’t quite gel. But Grumble is great at creating a space of unashamed, exuberant, creative physicality, and that’s radical in itself. Her neon maquillage pops against a monochrome backdrop scrawled with inspirational slogans and icons’ names.

    And the things Grumble does in front of it – with clingfilm and glitter, yoga and the can-can, vinegar and disco – outrageously embody her politics and testify to a powerful utopian urge. It’s all presented with a heartfelt openness, an invitation to the audience to activate and collaborate, paired with the understanding that, while some will laugh and cheer, others will scratch their heads or turn up their noses.

    This generosity of spirit supports the whole thing, whether Grumble is making unusual artworks for all or, in a finale to rival the show’s opening, offering a characteristically distinctive take on a classic protest song.

    Until 27 August . Today 8pm.