Edinburgh Fringe 2011
Making their Edinburgh Fringe debut, East End Cabaret treat us to an hour of songs from Bernadette Byrne, Victor Victoria and the little Red Book…
Aided by an accordion, keyboard and a few other less conventional instruments, we are welcomed to the revolution. Bernadette Byrne and Victor Victoria then give us a thoroughly engaging cabaret. And the opening words set up the evening’s proceedings – "Let’s talk about sex, baby…"
A near full house at the Counting House warmed to the show from the very beginning partly because the performers hit the ground running from the opening number. The music is accomplished and the performers are more than on top of their singing.
Miss Bernadette Byrne promises us intimacy and pearls of wisdom.The ensuing songs are humorous and witty, delivered theatrically and the two performers flow well together in terms of both spoken and sung banter.
The show is a bit of a collage and there’s still a bit of work to do deciding how it all hangs together. The singing is impressive and the performers exude an easy confidence. And that’s a big strength of the show – connection with the audience works well, the bitchy competitiveness between the two is set at the right level for comedy and the duo have made the right choice allowing the songs to take centre stage and for the comedy to support it and not vice versa. Clever (sometimes a bit risqué and occasionally a bit clumsily puerile) lyrics, strong singing, enjoyable pastiche tunes – all make for fun cabaret.
It’s a pity there wasn’t a follow spot in the venue which would have improved the intimate cabaret feel. The lighting was altogether too blue-white and a more evocative mood could have been created with just a few lighting design choices – yellows and reds. Cold blue tends to distance audiences unnecessarily. Also microphone distortion let some of the songs down. I preferred the original pastiche numbers to the reworded cover songs which, given the costumes, jarred a little with the opening cabaret set up.
So, all of the material is strong but it doesn’t weave together as well as it should and, if the intention is to be a bit anarchic, then in places it is over structured. With such impressively skilled performers, either would work well but at the moment the show is in a bit of a middle ground.
As an East End cabaret perhaps the "East End" aspect needs a bit more clarification or clearer positioning.
But don’t let that put you off. Here’s the good news: There’s more than enough here to thoroughly entertain you – a real bargain on the Free Fringe. The audience participation is set pitch perfectly and these are performers thoroughly enjoying themselves on a foundation of impressive talent, and this enjoyment infects the audience more and more with laughter and warm engagement with the fringe-debut performers as the hour unfolds. The penultimate song is a five star moment both in terms of writing and delivery. And the audience loved it.
Well worth seeing. A strong three stars which means one word on FringeReview: Recommended.