Edinburgh Fringe 2023
‘King of Ballroom’, Anton du Beke, takes a truncated version of ‘An Evening With…’ to the Fringe with plenty of dancing, singing, and behind the scenes stories of his life in entertainment.
Anton du Beke, known best for his run on BBC stalwart Strictly Come Dancing, has made the very brave decision to post his phone number on boards that bookend the stage, encouraging the audience members to send him questions during the program with the promise that he will answer them honestly. Between song and dance selections from the Great American Songbook, Du Beke scrolls through his messages, and the results range from hilarious to heartwarming. There are the obligatory behind-the-scenes stories about Strictly, a story about the recently late Len Goodman that “won’t make it into the tribute show”, and bits about his first dance class or being on tour as a young dancer. The highlight came when a twenty-one-year-old woman texted to ask if she could dance with him, and Du Beke brought her up on stage for a bit of a waltz.
Du Beke has a way with an audience, evidenced clearly by his ability to riff expertly off texts sent from strangers. In the dance portions he is predictably smooth and charming, whether it is a beautiful waltz with the agile Rosie Ward or a snappy tango with an equally snappy Kelly Chow, his reputation as king of ballroom is easily defended. What I didn’t expect was the show to be so, well, Fringe-y. Du Beck is at his most affable as he explains which steps he missed in his dance, or goes off on unscripted tangents about Nando’s, or forgets the words to his finale song and eventually has to read them off an iPad. Known in his longer evening show for taking advantage of his captive audience, Du Beke is unused to keeping it to only an hour, and constantly asks his band leader how much time he has left. Watching the band leader frantically trying to start the last song as Du Beke struggles to stop interacting with the audience felt just within the spirit of the Fringe. Even Lance Ellington, brought in to add some weight to the singing portions, got in on missing his steps and chatting about Nando’s unusual ordering system. Du Beke would have easily been able to present a polished, over-the-top extravaganza to rival the Ziegfeld Follies, but this being the Fringe, he gave us an intimate, scrappy hour that provided the perfect tonic for a rainy day in the last week of the festival. How’s that for knowing your audience?