Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Cabaret Festival... by way of introduction...

I came in late to the neo-burlesque revival. I tried to pretend that it was still happening when I picked up on the shows that were being led by the first generation of Scottish performers, but I knew it was already reaching the end of its first decade. By the time I saw some of the New York acts who had really been at the cutting edge – Fringe 2010, and the astonishing Wau Wau Sisters – the British scene was already retreating. The smart money was shifting emphasis away from stripping to the vaudeville revival. The transition of Blonde Ambition promotions from High Tease to Vive Le Cabaret symbolised the dramatic change. Des O’Connor, still a doyen of comperes, was introducing variety acts and less strippers. This year’s fringe was all about the high concept acts, like Dusty Limits. Neo-burlesque was healthy, but not part of the mainstream revolution that capitalised on the Fringe brochure’s dedicated cabaret section.

I have chatted about the rise of cabaret inThe Skinny, had guest appearances on the Radio Show from Frodo of the Glasgow Cabaret Festival and written about how Dusty Limits is well beyond conventional ideas about cabaret. There’s little to add here, except by way of cross reference. But the main theme of my cabaret criticism is that it is being moved forward not just by its own artists, but by theatre companies who have recognised its accessibility, satirical potential and humour. In a time when YouTube is defining the way that information is received – not by itself, but it will do as an example of the trend – it’s not surprising that cabaret is back. It’s short, sweet, direct and a bit sexy, sometimes.

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