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.