Meadows Theatre Big Tops
7 August– 5 September, 21.00
Almost every day of my final year of university involved walking past a gorgeously clad bloke whose image was plastered onto a billboard outside the library. By bloke of course I mean ‘Lady Boy’: the strange limbo between the genders inhabited by the travelling circus of Thai dancers.
‘The Lady Boys of Bangkok’ continues to fill an odd position in Fringe. If advertisement is anything to go by then the ‘Lady Boys’ is a sprawling empire, strutting around Edinburgh in peacock feathers and confident in its ability to draw curious crowds of Fringe goers. The small principalities and consulates that are most Fringe shows can merely look on, whimper and produce the odd flier or taxi advert.
So I was expecting a lot. ‘Gentlemen we advise you to keep your belts fastened at all times,’ I am told by the master of proceedings (or is that ring master?). ‘If a Lady Boy approaches you adopt the brace position.’ Indeed, make the error of sitting anywhere near the stage and you too could become part of the show. While the dancing mostly involved the bejewelled belles prancing around stage, they frequently ventured out into the crowd.
Yet this often forced audience participation gradually became voluntary, and by the end of a show of song, dance and jokes, as promised, a large chunk of the audience were lined up and dancing. Many of this, by now sozzled lot, were markedly less attractive than the men dressed as women on stage. Certainly for the heterosexual male the ‘Lady Boys’ can produce some confusing results.
It would be expecting too much from a show which is so unashamedly about sing-a-longs, sexual innuendo and earthly displays to expect anything more. You will not get anything intellectual out of the show, and the personal lives of the ‘Lady Boys’, surely deliberately, will remain a mystery. The show is also a telling cultural indictor for what the modern British public can accept from a show. Apparently the Britain of the twenty-first century is quite at home partying along with midgets, gorging on Thai curry and smooching with Thai ‘Lady Boys’.
By no stretch of the imagination ‘high’ culture, and disappointing in terms of actual cabaret singing, ‘Lady Boys’ is nonetheless a great night and fascinating display of flesh and freakery.