Returning to the Edinburgh Fringe this year is the ever theatrical, occasionally sassy, and always entertaining Laurie Black. Off the back of her Best Emerging Artist and Best Music awards at the Adelaide Fringe 2018, Black has reinvented the show she brought to Edinburgh last year. While Bad Luck Cabaret featured a variety of different performers who did their thing while Black played compere and did the odd song, this year’s production, simply titled Bad Luck, is much more about her.
The humid setting of the Big Belly, with a leaking roof and fake blood splattered on the stage from the previous show, has the perfect underground and dilapidated feel that fits Black nicely as she kick-starts her DIY-style punk cabaret with minimal stage clutter. Everything has a run-down yet determined feel about it – for example, Black tells the audience that her synthesiser electrocutes her and yet she keeps singing in the darkened room. Coupled with unapologetic song lyrics that are charged with social commentary, this is a show that takes no prisoners nor says sorry for anything. The point is to have fun no matter what, and there is plenty of that to be had.
Having released her third studio album Kink! earlier this year, Black introduces a few different tricks and surprises along with her singing. She shows a taste for many different one-liners and acts ranging from humour to circus tricks, which all work alongside her glaringly obvious musical talents. The songs can be punchy, moving or simply have a great dancing beat to them. Black’s original material is where Bad Luck really delivers, with brilliantly performed, evocative songs performed as if she was born to sing these words.
She encourages the audience to get involved and, while initially they can be slow to get on board with, they soon buy in to the wannabe warehouse rave sensation that Black tries to pull off. This involvement slowly escalates as the show goes on to match how much deeper the crowd are going down this particularly chaotic rabbit hole. There is also some non-audience support in the form of Black’s red-haired, leather clad guitarist, who quietly goes about his business without ever missing a beat. The rock edge he gives to La Macarena is his crowning glory – simple, but very effective. Her guest too, beatboxer extraordinaire Marv Radio, is a fantastic addition to the show, who becomes more impressive the longer he stays on stage.
It is easy for the crowd to put their support behind Bad Luck because its star screams of renegade charisma and attitude. Black, with her stupendous eyeliner and attire, wins the audience over in a heartbeat. Be it singing about the ills faced by her generation or performing a heartfelt ode to alcohol, her kicking personality is Bad Luck’s greatest strength. Placing this greater emphasis on her makes Bad Luck a more satisfying show than last year’s variety counterpart, which was still great fun to watch.
This Fringe veteran, a self-identifying “synth bitch” with a musical glint in her eye, is a master of getting her crowd to have a good time. Immersing yourself in the mini-spectacle of Black’s distinctive musical style is a fine way to spend an hour of your Fringe.
Underbelly Cowgate – Big Belly (Venue 61)
Until 26 August
Photo Credit: Lauren-Becki Rowlands