Browse reviews

Edinburgh Fringe 2016


Rachael Clerke & The Great White Males

Genre: Experimental

Venue: Summerhall


Low Down

Hugh Hefner, Margaret Thatcher, David Cameron and many others get shafted by their own words in this deconstruction of the construction industry.


Who were the cunts who made the money from the construction of our concrete housing estates? That might be the reason for this show’s provocative title. Or perhaps the title is drawn from a heartfelt plea to put the female gender back into the world of architecture. Either way – the title works.

Rip-off landlords, housing and concrete – it’s a patriarchy – and this joyous show builds a rowdy argument for taking a wrecking ball to it all.

A punk concept album is the heavy goods vehicle used to lambast the bastards who took the money and ran. The scratch band are The Great White Males ‘anti-virtuoso drag kings’ – but there is virtuosity here. Rachel Clerke fronts the band as architect, Archibald Tactful. Clerke oozes charisma: Laurie Anderson meets Groucho Marx.  And each band member flaunts their arrogance equally regally. Eleanor Fogg on guitar, Anna Smith on drums and Josephine Joy on bass – play the  politician, the landlord and the banker. There are wonderful images – a builder’s sack of concrete as cocaine; a concrete mixer as a royal balcony; a concrete slab turned into a vagina.

Lighting, costume, production, tech, production, dramaturgy – this team has got the right mix. The product is a diatribe against those who dispossessed families and forced them to live in ‘streets in the sky’.  Sheffield’s bleak Park Hill Flats is still unfolding its harrowing stories despite its steady gentrification. The sorry graffiti that adorns its bridge ‘Will u marry me?’ has a terrible human tale behind it. Until schools of architecture widen participation, our homes will continue to be designed by those who have no idea of what it is like to be brought up in a sink estate with condensation dripping from your windows all winter and with nowhere for the kids to play. Not for them the joys of walking up six flights because the lifts are liable to breakdown, whilst all the time taking in the heady aroma of piss.  Even now, Cambridge University’s architecture students are not allowed to work themselves through college (too distracting for their studies) – so if you’re poor, fuck off Jude the obscure.

All these meditations came to mind while watching this triumphant piece. The great white middle and upper middle class males of our lovely land have so much confidence and, in general, so little talent. Brexit Boris and his Bullingdon buddies stitch us up again and again. One is tempted to ask for all of them to be given concrete boots and dumped in the nearest deep river but short of that, they should be forced to sit through this show. My how they would hate it.

Cuncrete hails from Bristol, where the anarchist scene has long been vibrant and creative, and once more a radical piece of sturdy artistic anti-authoritarian work has done the city proud. I saw the gig and bought the tee shirt.