Cabaret & Variety review: Sweatshop

Edinburgh Festival Fringe: When it debuted last year, Briefs Factory's alternative variety line-up Sweatshop took its title seriously, offering sly economic satire to contextualise the spectacular showmanship of individual performers' work.

Assembly George Square Gardens (Venue 3)


There’s no sign of that overt political framing in this year’s all-new show; instead, our suave, slightly sinister host, the mellifluous crooner Mikelangelo, makes a few throwaway references to cabaret as an assembly line. The focus, then, is resolutely on the acts. Luckily, there’s a huge amount of talent and imagination involved. Less luckily, on the night I saw the show, the production wasn’t running smoothly.

The richly stocked line-up offers plenty to delight. Lada Redstar delivers two terrific burlesque acts, both combining strong production values with potent charisma. Aerialist Dylan Rodriguez mesmerises with a combination of contortion and rag-doll vulnerability while freaky drag provocateurs Betty Grumble and Gingzilla do gratifyingly outrageous things with anatomy and poultry. There’s also innovative grand-scale clowning from Tara Bloom, engaging acrobatic work from Luke Hubbard and fine musical accompaniment from Laurie Black.

But a delayed start, individual slip-ups and production-side hitches, along with the less than convincing conceptual framing, left the impression of a potentially powerful machine not firing on all cylinders.

Until 27 August. Today 10pm.