Musician. Entertainer. Fan of black and yellow safety tape. This pretty neatly describes Laurie Black in her show Bad Luck Cabaret, an hour full of musical numbers and guest performers, as well as a healthy dose of audience involvement. What you would expect from a cabaret, but with its own unique look.
Right from the word ‘go’, Black delivers an intense and absorbing experience. Marching around the stage in her black leotard and a rather magnificent pair of rocker boots, she leads the audience through a series of thoroughly enjoyable misdemeanours. The audience are treated to three songs of her own creation, the finale, Moonshine, easily the best with its wicked air of potion crafting and manipulation. It is dark and atmospheric, but never depressing.
Black’s words are filled with sarcasm as she bemoans the ‘bad luck’ resulting in the shoddy fortunes of eager festivalgoers, moving through the audience and asking them one by one. She describes her loving affection for her keyboard and clearly has her own brand of comedy, one full of wicked smiles and clever asides, while contrastingly the content of her words is actually somewhat downbeat. A little nip of realism turns out to form a solid basis for a comedy show, and the audience are always caught unaware by the unpredictability of Black’s lyrics.
They get to do plenty of the work, too – one segment of the show sees audience members show off the very best fashion that they can improvise with safety tape, with predictably peculiar results. It’s a lot of fun, and quite an achievement to get almost everyone involved in some way or another.
Her guests also hit the mark well, in particular Andrew O’Neill’s arsenal of one-liners and comments about daily life as a transvestite (which include being mistaken for a unicorn, apparently). Importantly, the guests are in keeping with the dark but theatrical appearance of the show, so the mood is never broken by the entry and exit of different performers. It also stops it from not feeling like Black’s show; she will not allow herself to be swallowed up by the personas of her guests.
Black also keeps the cabaret show remarkably down-to-earth and relatable. There is of course much license with these kinds of shows to really go over the top in the name of expression, and this can sometimes work. While Black and her entourage are certainly striking in their appearance, they never make too big a deal of themselves. Their presence is big enough for the room and leaves it at that. Any bigger, and her words would likely be lost and the meaning harder to find.
Most importantly, Black is an extremely talented musician and is allowed to express this in an environment totally bent to her own will. Everything is her own creation, meaning it is possibly one of the most original acts at the Fringe this year. Not a show for those who are uninterested in cabaret, but for its many legions of fans this is another incredible slice of entertainment.
Bad Luck Cabaret
Sweet Grassmarket (Venue 18)
Image: Kevin Murray