Cabaret & Variety review: The Creative Martyrs: Kabakunst

Edinburgh Festival Fringe: The Creative Martyrs have, as they put it, 'spent many a year being accidentally ­prescient'.

Fingers Piano Bar (Venue 221)


They are canaries in the cabaret coalmine, their longstanding observations about the consequences of political cynicism and cultural complacency ­sounding with each passing year less like ­warnings and more like the daily news.

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    The Weimar-style duo, whose whiteface makeup and shabby suits evoke both Waiting for Godot and Laurel and Hardy, accompany themselves on ukulele and cello as they sing accomplished, jaunty ditties about nationalist folly, the arms trade and drowning refugees.

    The speedy patter and musical dexterity – a pile-up of puns here, some sinister, sharking bass tones there – only partly sweeten the bitter tidings of a world spinning awry.

    As always with the Martyrs, audience engagement is a powerful part of the mix.

    The performance space becomes, in a convivial, ­quietly powerful way, a miniature temporary society where ideas can be road-­tested, responsibilities offered, alliances proposed and differences explored.

    The duo are hardly naive about the likelihood that likeminded folk will gather at a politically-minded Fringe cabaret show.

    Yet they still find ways to needle at complacencies and allow for argument.

    The question of agency is emphasised: how far do good intentions and political awareness go without action? What can line dancing teach us about a nation’s political leanings? And is it okay to punch a Nazi?

    That last question ­underpins the show’s finest number, a knotty, nuanced and needling song that shows cabaret at its best, inviting those present in the room to express and question their beliefs, to listen and act while acknowledging our different kinds of privilege, ignorance and inexperience.

    Just the ticket for those who appreciate critical thinking as well as toe-tapping ­ditties, deadpan absurdity and – still, somehow – moments of ­stubborn, nourishing hope.

    Until 27 August. Today 9pm.