Cabaret & Variety review: Tomás Ford: Craptacular

Edinburgh Festival Fringe:

Gilded Balloon Teviot (Venue 14)

****

If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em is more or less the ethos behind Tomás Ford’s Craptacular. Ford is Australia’s premier electro-cabaret weirdo, a past master of experimental beats, frenetic hysteria and on-stage borderline meltdowns, but here he embraces the cheesiest of cheesy pop songs in the name of broadening his appeal. That’s the idea, anyway – the reality, as he acknowledges at the top of the show, is “this hour’s gonna be pretty weird. But we’re gonna have fun”.

And so we do. Ford welcomes us with the nervy excitement of a party host, raising the energy, testing out his bespoke tech and giving advice on clapping strategy as a gathering storm of a soundscape rumbles over the horizon. His opening number, AC/DC’s Thunderstruck, is driving enough to get things pumping and off-kilter enough to keep things strange; Ford’s delivery is edgy, endearing and compelling all at once and the twin video screens that frame him offer both atmospheric ambient effects and sarcastic real-time commentary. The set moves through ABBA, Rick Astley, Dannii Minogue and Hanson in a range of differently bizarre registers, from unexpected reggae to dystopian barbershop. Each is accompanied by a costume change, from tartan jumpsuit to cockatoo-brocaded jacket.

Craptacular offers the pleas­ure of over-familiar songs rendered endearingly odd. But, music aside, the main joy of the show is in the social dynamic Ford instigates, taking us from clapping to voguing to more ambitious things. If you’re expecting a run-of-the-mill knees-up, Ford’s off-the-rails style might take you by surprise. But let him do his thing and you realise it all comes from a place of love. Resistance is a waste of time anyway. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. Get weird. And have fun.

Until 28 August. Today 5pm.