Browse reviews

Edinburgh Fringe 2013

Ivy Paige – ‘Head’ Mistress

Lucinda Ryan Productions

Genre: Cabaret

Venue: Just the Tonic at The Caves


Low Down

Direct from London’s West End! Join burlesque showgirl and comedienne, Ivy Paige, in the funniest class in Edinburgh. With a nation of Head Mistresses giving surprisingly little head she remembers a time when the title meant something. So loosen your tie, roll up your skirt and join Ivy for an education that is definitely not on the National Curriculum! Live music from Pete Saunders from Dexys Midnight Runners!


My idea of heaven is a metropolitan boozer. The sort of establishment run by a no-nonsense landlady of a certain age with a colourful past and more than a few stories to tell. Ideally she would, in her time, have been loved by royalty, caressed by the rich and powerful, adored by the masses and loathed by the priggish and unexciting. She would have the voice of an angel and the sharp tongue of the very devil himself. Her conversation would demonstrate a wit that could cut to the bone or quicken the senses. Her self-possession would hide a vulnerability which would always prove to be the cheddar on an expertly primed mantrap. If Ivy Paige is at a loose end in the distant decades to come she may just be the gal the brewery is looking for to manage the Reviewer’s Rest.


We are ushered into the Fancy Room at Just the Tonic. It’s dark. It’s damp. The souls of the dear departed denizens of the once wretched Cowgate dart amid the dank air. They are in for a treat. Paige has a gorgeous voice. Accompanied by Pete Saunders (formerly of Dexy’s Midnight Runners) she presents a very modern take on the auld Edwardian musical hall star. Her banter is cheeky, wicked in fact, but never crude or vulgar. She knows just how much to give and just how much to keep for herself – a class act from the ‘Head’ Mistress.


Her songs dwell on life and love, rhapsodising on the constant themes of self-belief, struggle and recovery. The lyrics are mature without being maudlin. Paige’s grace and charm are as welcome as unexpected sunshine on a cloudy day. Her persona is at home in the headmistress’ office. She owns her space. We have been summoned. We can as easily be dismissed. The alarm bell of a keyboard power cord issue is meant for her not for us. This performance is a riff hitting all the high notes.


There are audience interactions aplenty. Men are brought up, chewed up and spat out (in the nicest possible way). I find myself worrying that with a more raucous crowd this could all get out of hand. The crowd Paige has is an interesting one. In addition to the usual lovers of a finely turned ankle, the plugging of Saunders in her marketing material has attracted at least one fan of a certain age with a slightly staid group of friends in his wake. They are sitting behind me and I wonder if they will be too stuffy to stay. They do. And they are really impressed. Saunders has not disappointed. He is a skillful compliment to the star. Paige is a freelance Christina Hendricks who answers to no mad men. Again, it’s her voice which has won them over.

This is the kind of cabaret I like. An act that makes me feel slightly better about having missed the Berlin scene in Isherwood’s day. Paige is a force of nature. A combination of talents and assets which will be packing them in even tighter before EdFringe ‘13 is out. Don’t wait to hear about these glory days in the Reviewer’s Rest.


Show Website