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Reuben Kaye (Edinburgh Fringe Festival): Review

Reuben Kaye U O Kaye, hun? Reuben Kaye in 'Reuben Kaye'. Photograph: Courtesy of Ayesha Hussain.

Reuben Kaye brings THE most vicious, sensational, and captivating cabaret of this year’s fringe: gobsmacking, lap-invading brilliance.

Australia’s king of cabaret, Reuben Kaye, comes to Edinburgh armed with amazing outfits, a ground-shaking voice, and a wit so savage you’ll require a first aid kit.

Concept

Cabaret is not Jane MacDonald caterwauling on a cruise ship. I just wanted to put that out there, because that’s still what people conjure to mind when they think about the genre: especially Gary Barlow. If you end up putting Reuben Kaye on a boat, he’ll probably end up ruling the South Pacific as the worlds fiercest and fiercest pirate, plundering booty using nothing but his acerbic wit, tremendous voice, and domineering be-sequined presence.

If you want to see what real cabaret is, Reuben Kaye is one of the many cabaret shows at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival that will not only change your mind, but make you feel damn stupid for thinking that the Cilla Black tribute act you once saw on the Costa del Sol was the epitome of the genre. If you can only see one cabaret at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this year, it unquestionably has to be Reuben Kaye.

What’s absolutely astonishing about Kaye’s act is that just how intimately involved in the genre, its structure, and its tropes he is. Throughout the show, Kaye will unmercifully send up cabaret with near academic precision only to instantly launch into one of the most perfect cabaret performances you’ll ever see. You’ll laugh till you cry as he tears apart the idea of cabaret as melancholic introspection of an artist, to hanging on his every word and note as he regales to us the story of his high school crush to the strains of a most spectacular take on Kate Bush’s “Wuthering Heights”. Kaye has you completely in his grasp, having you struggling to breath through the huge laughs to being completely transfixed by his bewitching performance.

I know it sounds like hyperbole, but I honestly don’t think I’ve ever been as stupefied by a cabaret show as I have by Reuben Kaye. Kaye has a panache and a gravity that draws you right into the show, even if his stature and full-on interactions with the audience makes him simultaneously petrifying. But it’s all part of a sensational act that knocks others out of the park. Sides in tatters from the hilarious patter and jaw bruised from hitting the floor, you leave euphorically savaged by this glittering behemoth of cabaret.

Performance

I have to say that you really shouldn’t see Reuben Kaye if you’re easily offended or precious in your sensitivities. Expect explicit references to homosexual intercourse, strong references to hardcore drug abuse, and quips about lesser-abled celebrities, to name but some of the shocking hilarities thrown at the audience the night I was there. But despite all of these being completely outrageous, Kaye turns them into comedy platinum nuggets.

Furthermore, Kaye’s crowd work is absolutely indomitable as his persona. Not situation can faze him and there isn’t anything he can’t turn into a roaring din of laughter. No audience member should expect to get off scott-free from the show. Even critics like myself, who usually enjoy the privilege of being tactfully ignored by most artists, can end up getting a lapful of Kaye’s diamond-tipped barbs.

But the real splendour of Kaye’s performance is in his presence and voice during musical numbers. He can belt better than most divas dead or alive, putting modern-day brats to utter shame, with a power and pathos that floods the entire room blissfully drowning you. You are 100% captivated by him from start to finish better than anything else on the scene.

Verdict

Reuben Kaye is the absolute antidote to and the pristine paragon of cabaret. Riotous, fabulous, brilliant, he may be from a land down under, but he’s absolutely on top.

Reuben Kaye plays at Assembly Checkpoint (Venue 322), until 27 August 2017. For ticket, times, and prices, visit tickets.edfringe.com.