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Sweatshop (Edinburgh Fringe): Review

sweatshop All in a day's werk. The cast of 'Sweatshop'. Photograph: Courtesy of Briefs Factory.

Sweatshop breaks all the rules to bring you a lick of the finest cabaret on the fringe. So naughty, it should be illegal.


Miss Frisky welcomes you to her sweatshop. You and her other workers will be grinding hard to produce some top notch entertainment from Edinburgh’s offering of cabaret, comedy, circus, and burlesque.

Concept

From the people who brought you Briefs comes a variety show that takes the sexiest performers of the fringe and makes them sweat for your unadulterated enjoyment. Bringing performers from The Raunch, Betty Grumble: Sex Clown Saves the World, Hot Brown Honey, and five star Circa: Closer and Briefsand a guest comedian, Sweatshop is a great way to get a taste of the smorgasbord of the fringe’s forbidden fruits without having to dash between venues in the unpredictable weather. Being a late night show, too, means that no holes are barred, and Sweatshop is a production line set to super sexy!

Even though Sweatshop is essentially an infomercial for other shows, it is a blisteringly fantastic one none the less. This is because the shows that they’re promoting are, in themselves, top-notch. But it’s the variety of shows and genres that gets covered in Sweatshop that really makes the night incredibly dynamic watching. You’ve got everything from stand-up, to burlesque, to some simply stunning aerial acrobatics. And each act capitalises on their unique talent brilliantly and blissfully (and sometimes brashly) to make this a varied and very satisfying evening.

But for all the kink Sweatshop throws at you, and the jokes about performer exploitation, there’s a subversive and daring undertone to everything. This is not just titillation, this is empowerment and a massive “f*ck you” to conformity. There are boys in tight underwear slaying gigantic platform heals that tumble gracefully and seductively in the air: a fabulously queer and gorgeous image. Betty Grumble’s striptease is sarcastic, grotesque, and angry: not what you’d see at Spearmint Rhino any time soon. Sweatshop is a bombastic protest that arouses the senses and dares your norms.

Performers

If you’ve noticed that the usual “Direction and Production” section is missing in this review, it is that, apart from the well executed lighting and sound to support the acts, coupled with some great choreography for the dance numbers, it’s the acts themselves that really drive Sweatshop. Each bring a devilish pace to their portion to the show. Josh Rosengreen is simply the sexiest man I’ve ever seen, as well as performing one of the most pant-moistening burlesque sequences I’ve witnessed. Betty Grumble is just shocking yet completely captivating. Hot Brown Honey’s beatboxing is simply unreal. And Jared Dewey from Circa, and the founder of Briefs, are two aerial acrobats that beg to be seen: their performances are so jaw-dropping you need to be pinched to make sure you’re not dreaming.

Holding it all together, though, is Miss Frisky: one half of the incomparable Frisky & Mannish. Not only is her voice one of the best ones you’ll ever hear – soaring, rich and robustly rounded with an sweeping range – she’s a performer of hyperactive fun, devastating irony, and wry abandon.

Verdict

The more you sweat, the hotter it gets! Eat your heart out, Royal Variety Performance, Sweatshop is a showcase worth the werk.

Sweatshop plays at the Underbelly’s Circus Hub on the Meadows (venue 360), Edinburgh, EH9 9EX, until 22 August 2016. Tickets are £13.50 – £16.50 (concessions available). To book, visit tickets.edfringe.com.