fri 21/06/2024

Reuben Kaye, Purcell Room review - Australian gives powerhouse performance | reviews, news & interviews

Reuben Kaye, Purcell Room review - Australian gives powerhouse performance

Reuben Kaye, Purcell Room review - Australian gives powerhouse performance

Cabaret setting for biographical comedy and songs

Reuben Kaye has an extraordinary voiceHolly Jackson

As the panto season is in full swing, theatregoers will be expecting to hear some smut. For those who don't like the traditional artform but still like a bit of filth – with songs – then Reuben Kaye's The Butch Is Back will do nicely.

It's a storytelling show in a cabaret format as the fabulously dressed Australian comic and singer performs with his six-piece band. He has an extraordinary voice and the songs (arranged by his musical director Shanon D Whitelock, who is on keyboards) – bombastic, full-throated affairs and camp-as-you-like rockers – recount his childhood or act as a soundtrack as he tells his winding tales. Oh, and the sex gags keep on, er, coming as Kaye struts and swishes across the stage and along the runway into the auditorium.

He fills us in on his background: two of Kaye's Jewish grandparents fled Stalin's Russia and his arty parents divorced when he was young. And when the teenage Kaye told his father he was gay, his father's reaction was really not what he was expecting. It feels like it's still a sore wound and is a powerful moment in a show that flips between sad and serious in the space of a sentence.

Kaye discusses climate change, indigenous people's suffering, LGBT rights and why he's giving his homeland a wide berth for a while (he made a joke about Jesus and some who objected sent him death threats). He says the world is going to pot and he's here to give a commentary on the end days – “The only horseman of the apocalypse to ride side-saddle,” he says with an arch look to the audience.

He makes some astute observations as he assesses the current political situation in the UK and several politicians and celebrities – Nigel Farage, Suella Braverman and members of the royal family among them – are the targets of his vitriol. Some may even think of contacting their lawyer....

There's a lot of biting comedy, and some marvellous throwaway lines – his culinary jus/Jews joke is worth the admission price alone – and the songs are belters. He's a brilliant performer, and one who suggests some vulnerability beneath the waspish humour, although that's never allowed to stay for long as it's back to the knob gags. This is a show that could do with some more light and shade.

While it's a powerhouse performance, some may struggle to get past Kaye's monstrous ego and the relentlessness of his look-at-me persona, and the show feels overlong at more than two hours.

Politicians and celebrities are the targets of his vitriol

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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