Edinburgh Fringe 2013
Melinda Hughes’ cleverly crafted alter ego, a down-at-heel, upper class chanteuse, charms her audience with a mix of condescension and snobbery as she waxes lyrical about the deleterious effects of the recession on those that have – or, more likely, had.
Cabaret has been slowly easing itself into the mainstream of the Fringe over the last few years. It now has its own section in the Fringe programme and more young artists, such as Fringe first-timer Melinda Hughes, are being encouraged to display their considerable talents to a rapidly growing audience base.
And there was a decent smattering of cabaret buffs to see this opening performance from Kiss and Tell Cabaret. This group gives voice to Hughes’ cleverly crafted alter ego, an upper class chanteuse, who charms the audience with a mix of condescension and snobbery as she waxes lyrical about the deleterious effects of the recession on the rich, the demise of the Euro, recycling, global revolutions and how Hollande (that’s Francois, not the Dutch) is driving all the rich French folks over to (wait for it) London. Backed by a talented jazz trio of piano (Jeremy Limb), bass (Andy Tolman) and drums (Jamie Fisher), Hughes pitched both character and vocals perfectly, as you might have expected with someone of such pedigree.
For Melinda Hughes is an extremely talented opera star in her own right, in high demand as a soloist as well as having sung leading roles in several major operas. We caught just a whiff of her talents when she went off mike for a few bars to exclaim her joy at discovering Edinburgh has a Harvey Nicks, the store no Sloane Range can be far removed from. To coin a phrase, this girl can sing – she could fill the Usher Hall unmiked, so it was a tribute to her skill as a cabaret artist that she kept the vibrato in check and allowed her audience to enjoy the amusing stories she was telling through each song.
Hughes and her partner in rhyme Jeremy Limb had clearly put a lot of thought into what were highly amusing lyrics – alliteration, double entendre, clever word-play – and with Hughes’ diction being as perfect as we might have expected from such an obviously gifted opera singer, we lost nothing in a venue where the acoustics were hardly concert standard.
Some of the linking badinage could do with a bit of polishing, but this was the opening night so a few more shows should see the generally witty exchanges become more natural and free flowing. But that’s a minor point in what was a thoroughly entertaining and enjoyable show that has much to recommend it.