With a sharp, acerbic tongue, villainous grin and an array of costumes that must singlehandedly keep the sequin industry in the black, Reuben Kaye dominates the stage and devours his audience.
Yes, he’s got pipes to get your bones vibrating, a live band and a fabulous talent for walking in heels, but what Kaye really sells in his debut Edinburgh hour is himself. The show smacks off the infamous Prince album, Prince, named for, written by, composed, produced and performed entirely by Prince. Right down to the name, Reuben Kaye has that same air of independence, faith, capability and total determination.
Potentially some of the most self-aware cabaret you’ll see this month, Kaye takes time to deconstruct elements of showmanship in a wholly postmodern move. Although gloriously, indulgently intelligent – Kaye’s mid-set references range from Brecht to Chekhov and Italian sculptors – no one can help being seduced by his Cheshire Cat grin, which keeps the audience feeling involved no matter how outrageous or catty the comments get, or how obscure the references become. Kaye is a master performer, and he struts the stage with the confidence of someone who knows they are exactly where they belong.
All of this, and we haven’t even talked about the music yet. From a re-crafting of Kate Bush’s Wuthering Heights with a personal touch, to a surprising national anthem, Kaye knows how to belt them out. Although his voice is fantastic and, technically, you could say the act was arranged around the songs, it says something impressive that Kaye’s personality and charm alone would have been enough to entertain, delight and educate for an hour – the music was only an added bonus.
Reuben Kaye already knows he is an icon: it’s time for you to find out too. In fact, I think I’ll go and get another ticket – you’ll need to race me to the box office.
Words: Chiara Margiotta
Reuben Kaye, Assembly Checkpoint, Aug 8-27 (not 14), 9pm