An increasing number of recent drama, dance and music graduates are turning to cabaret forms for their own projects, with varying but interesting results. ‘Ballesque’, created by young company Fait Accompli, is one of the bolder examples I’ve seen this Fringe – though still strongly indebted to conventional forms and unoriginal in some of its choices, its many encouraging aspects include a strong sense of the need to connect directly with its audience and a willingness to put classical training to irreverent use. The story – a mischievous metaphor for the production itself, perhaps? – sees a young dancer, alienated by the cruelty of her teacher, fall in with the MC of an infernal cabaret. The main plot is neatly punctuated by standalone numbers taking place within the club, some (a gender-switched pas de deux, an ingenious fan dance, a sensual Fosse tribute) more interesting than others (could there be a more hackneyed selection for a chanteuse than ‘I Just Wanna Make Love to You’, ‘Fever’ and ‘Feeling Good’?). The framing drama isn’t entirely compelling – the dialogue and performances are mixed, technical skill sometimes being more in evidence than charisma – but there’s no denying the boldness of an undertaking that marshalls this company of a dozen talented young performers to show off a range of highly impressive routines within a complex and sustained formal structure. Some limitations are only to be expected of a fledgling production, and don't diminish the status of ‘Ballesque’ as an exciting intimation of the kind of avenues that could open up when classical training is put to the service of cabaret work that looks its audience right in the eye.
And if you like the sound of this, try:
‘Diva Gigs’, the hugely likeable and entertaining debut Edinburgh show from a trained opera singer bringing her favourite arias to a cabaret audience with passion and warmth.
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