Edinburgh Fringe 2018
New York City’s critically acclaimed satirist and cult horror raconteur, Dandy Darkly, returns to the Fringe for another horrific, hysteric, late-night frolic. Join Dandy aboard the infamous Gaybird Steamer for the smartest, sleaziest ride of your life. Enjoy a drippin’ earful of Southern Gothic grotesquery – country fried robots, spider gods, beauty shops and inbred freakery – also trains, trains, trains!
When you buy a ticket for the Gaybird Steamer you are in for quite a ride – and Dandy Darkly, legendary raconteur extraordinaire, leads you aboard and into his world. First, he has one of the best costumes in the fringe with a gold catsuit and embellished uniform jacket with lace ruffles – so he has to be one of the best-dressed train conductors in the world, and second, he is one of the most articulate performing artists you will meet. His flamboyant exterior is his altar ego and deep down he is a true artist involved in every part of his show, whether finessing every spoken word, or each sprinkle of glitter.
Dandy Darkly, created and performed by Neil Arthur James is a Gothic Storyteller, telling tales from the American South. His heritage of stories is from the melting pot of oral storytelling from the Southern states and the early settlers from the British Isles; this tradition includes vibrant lurid, beautiful, poignant language set to music.
Well, James, through Dandy Darkly has stretched this style to the extreme in his new show by adding his mellifluous and dramatic voice, visceral physicality and distinct finely drawn characters with fine writing and eccentricity. The result is nothing short of unique and very special.
He creates and tells his stories with aplomb. Rich vivid tales pour out of him with poetic nuance and lyrical grace together with flourishes of outstretched arms and superb facial expressions that combine to create this performance. James as Darkly is engaging and entertaining, always decanting his heart and smart mind into his craft. The characters populating his Gothic Americana world have names like Little Biscuit, Auntie Nancy and Colonel Cornelius Cracker – no detail is left out about their lives if it is pertinent to the story.
When telling his stories James has a vast range of emotive physical gestures and voice quality. He can be bold and excited and tone everything down to be tender with a quivering voice that gets soft when telling a poignant tale. He interacts with the audience a few times with friendly or cheeky ad lib quips but when telling each story he is in the zone and tightly choreographed with the outstanding music, sound design and compositions by Adam Chandler and several other musicians. The music and sound effects are an important part of the performance and support the storytelling beautifully with precision timing,
James’s writing is full of unusual imagery and vivid perceptive description, well honed and a tad outrageous (ok, quite outrageous at times), and sometimes deliciously snarky. Darkly’s stories often include social commentary about politics and socio economic themes, which are sometimes hidden in metaphors.
He appears supportive of the underdog while giving out secrets or lightly scorning the wealthy and powerful. Phrases like “Dreamin ain’t free in America” “Parking lot prairies” and “sipping on a mint julep” add atmosphere, context and depth to the stories, which also have witty modern references.
The simple set consists of a colourful collage backdrop. In the middle of the very narrow stage is a microphone with stand. With minimal set and stage space, James creates a lugubrious and florid place that hums busily with people chatting, gossiping, going about their lives – and how what they do affects others, at times in serious ways.
James is a fine performer, writer, designer and he has a fascinating personality full of imagination and verve. So what are you waiting for? Go and get your ticket and board the Gaybird Steamer to meet your host, the charming Dandy Darkly, it’s a journey like no other! A Hidden Gem!