Reviews: Auden, Britten, Mitchell and Ravenhill | Le Gateau Chocolat | Song Noir
Edinburgh Festival Fringe Scotsman reviews: Auden, Britten, Mitchell and Ravenhill: Tell Me the Truth About Love at Underbelly, Bristo Square (Venue 300), Le Gateau Chocolat – I Heart Chocolat at Underbelly, Bristo Square (Venue 300) and Song Noir at Summerhall (Venue 26), reviewed by Fiona Shepherd
Musical cabaret comes in many shapes and forms on the Fringe. Auden, Britten, Mitchell and Ravenhill: Tell Me the Truth About Love (★★★) must rank as one of the more serious explorations of the genre. There is nothing po-faced about the show – it is just that singer Jamie McDermott and accompanist Peter Foggitt display such fidelity to the feel of the material, which principally comprises witty, bitchy lyrics by Auden set to Britten’s classical piano arrangements, often addressing the composer’s repressed homosexuality.
But there is an additional intriguing treat in the form of As You Love – a text by Mark Ravenhill, with music by Conor Mitchell – about Hitler and Eva Braun, which provides a glimpse of where the cabaret songwriters of the 1930s might have gone had the Nazis not closed down all the nightclubs.
For a more overtly comedic approach, try Fringe favourite Le Gateau Chocolat (★★★), a large, black man with a booming bass/baritone voice, an exotic wardrobe of costumes and a lovely range of wigs. His latest show, I Heart Chocolat, gets straight to the point with a tasty rendition of Chocolate Salty Balls from South Park. Le Gateau then randomly selects audience members to dip into his selection box of chocolates and share the flavour.
Backed by his trusty Cocoa Band, he really works that first person pronoun in I Who Have Nothing and delivers a torch song rendition of Nick Cave’s The Ship Song so vulnerable that it is possible to overlook the lycra leotard he has stripped down to. However, his piece de résistance is an irreverent deconstruction of the film version of Les Miserables “in five minutes or less” (it takes considerably longer) while dressed as a Dalmatian.
A brisk canter down the road to Summerhall and you enter the murky world of Song Noir (★★★★), a theatrical hour of sound and vision from Perth-based duo Pumajaw, inspired by their favourite film music. Stepping into the Red Lecture Theatre is like stepping into a low-rent version of a David Lynch nightclub scene.
Jon Wills’s twanging guitar provides much of the instrumental texture, while wheezing concertina, chiming autoharp, unsettling organ and clanking sound effects are added to taste. But Pinkie MacLure’s husky alto is the magnetic star attraction, seducing with the eerie lullaby from The Night of the Hunter, a siren rendition of Johnny Guitar and vocal version of the theme from Peter Gunn performed in front of an image of a red curtain and mirrorball.
Their original material measures up in this evocative company. Longin’ for the Longin’ has all the melodramatic glamour of a classic Bond theme, while Your Arms, Your Doors recalls Soft Cell’s neon-soaked nocturnal synth pop. There aren’t a lot of laughs in this dark cabaret but it’s a rewarding, immersive trip.
Auden, Britten, Mitchell and Ravenhill: Tell Me the Truth About Love at Underbelly, Bristo Square (Venue 300)
Le Gateau Chocolat – I Heart Chocolat at Underbelly, Bristo Square (Venue 300)
Song Noir at Summerhall (Venue 26)
Originally published in The Scotsman