Edinburgh Theatre

The year 2015-2016 was a big year for me, coming to Edinburgh after working in the Middle East for several years. One of the first things I did was visit the Festival Theatre, where I fell in love with modern dance (I hate dancing, so don’t switch off if you are also not a dancer). Although I intend to continue visiting the Festival, I will also be trying out other venues, for modern dance, drama, ballet and opera.

The Lady Boys of Bangkok (Edinburgh Festival)

lady-boys-of-bangkok-III

 The Lady Boys of Bangkok (Edinburgh Festival)

Their Big Top tent is located on the waste ground between plush apartments and offices – a no-man's land of genderfuck exotica. You walk along Fountainbridge road to see the gathering throng of taxis and the groups of all ages, their glad-rags on. The people are on their Friday night out; one out of the ordinary. Freeing myself from the study room and the library and a general perfunctory routine, I entered through the gates and joined them.

What is it about The Lady Boys of Bangkok that leads to sell-out crowds? Sexy and brash, I guess this is tabloid journalism made flesh, to the rhythms of Abba and Lady Gaga. It's sensationalist, sometimes tawdry, and filled with striking, sauntering, confident women, fabulously dressed in one costume change after another, who in turn are aided and abetted by their Chippendale male accomplices. Combining disco vibe with catwalk and pop music cheesiness, the show ticks so many boxes there's probably something for everyone out looking for a Friday night adventure.

The show comprises of alternating acts, of generally modern US/Euro pop with stunning show girls miming and dancing, and a tackier series of routines, involving an aging drag queen and a dwarf; in the latter case, the scenes end with the theme to Benny Hill, which probably tells you all you need to know about the tone. With the exception of their Mary Poppins routine, with the drag Mary Poppins miming to A Spoon Full of Sugar while snorting (fake) cocaine, this latter type of act  failed to hit the mark for me, a kind of cabaret that might have been funny in the 1970s at a Bernard Manning comedy venue.

But the acts with the girls – like a really good fast food meal on an empty stomach – all hit the mark. Are they girls? In one big reveal, you get to see that some have benefitted from breast implants, while the femininity of their beauty makes me suspect a cosmetic surgeon got involved somewhere. Isn't such curiosity part of the show, though? So many of their routines leave you in both admiration and a 'how did they do it?', and I think it wasn't just me asking these questions, from overhearing girls nearby marvelling at the svelte femininity on display.

My favourite routines were the medleys of Lady Gaga and Abba – I had forgotten how much I love Lady Gaga, and how perfectly her artpop for drag shows like this is suited. Dancing Queen, also, is one of the all-time great anthems, making you high with disco. But elsewhere, what I remember is the zero-tolerance security. For be aware if you attend this show, it's tightly policed. This starts at the entrance, when you discover you can't bring in liquids (I had to dispense with a bottle of water I'd just bought), and their airport security doesn't get much friendlier inside. One woman, getting on a chair amid the melee, was immediately aided back to earth, while a man who jumped on stage was quickly frogmarched out of the show. Political conventions don't have security this tight, I mused. It's a weird tightrope, the atmosphere encouraged one of disco fervour, but one step too far, and the response can seem uncompromising, and in one instance nearby me, way out of line.

Overall, though? I'm glad I went, even with the cost (£20 for the cheapest ticket, £4.30 for a beer). The fact it's a feature of the Edinburgh Festival adds to the charm. Walking home along Lothian Road I suddenly came across a late-night orchestral spectacular, with 3D projections merging and moving upon the walls of Usher Hall. The road might as well have been closed for the crowd that made it impossible to pass. But isn't this what the Edinburgh Festival is all about? A trashy, sensational drag show followed by a walk home past classical music beamed from an opera house, to the awe of a late night, 11pm crowd. Welcome, Planet Earth, to the Edinburgh Festival.
Edinburgh Book Festival: Precarious Freedoms panel
Adam (Drama, Edinburgh Festival) 28.08.17
 

Comments

No comments made yet. Be the first to submit a comment
Guest
Thursday, 09 July 2020

Captcha Image

What's On This Week

My Latest Posts

July 01, 2020

Silenced by The Scotsman

​ On 11 June, The Scotsman published a deeply hostile article against transgender rights and activism in an opinion piece about the JK Rowling furore by its deputy political editor Gina Davidson. After much distress, I wrote a counter article which The Scotsman quietly ignored, after they had offered to pass it on to their Comment Editor. I experie...
May 11, 2020

The Book of Queer Prophets, curated by Ruth Hunt

in Books

  The Book of Queer Prophets: 24 Writers on Sexuality and Religion The historically fraught relationship between Abrahamic religions and LGBT+ identities provides the backdrop to The Book of Queer Prophets , a collection of twenty-four meditations by public figures who identify as both religious and LGBT+. The book's curator, the for...
May 09, 2020

Queer/Transgender short film: Mesmeralda

Joshua Matteo's short film, Mesmeralda , merging horror with esoterica, is now out on youtube . As with his previous work Metanoia , we see youthful trans actors racing through the empty streets of a moonlit New York, haunted by symbols and stalked by a masked figure of violent intentions. Mesmeralda , as described by Matteo, is the companion ...
March 08, 2020

Sterile like the moon: the joys of transgender healthcare

Sterile like the moon: the joys of transgender healthcare Summer, 2016: Gina's Big Bang, as transitioning begins A bureaucratic question in a sun-lit room. My medical practitioner asks me if I intend to have children. The question lingers, but the self-loathing is instant. No, I won't be having children. The practitioner nods. She moves on to the n...
November 10, 2019

General Election

General Election 12 December 2019 I spent the last election in an office, alone but for the company of a colleague. We watched the BBC's coverage while I drank wine, downbeat and expecting austerity and the absence of hope to triumph. Then we saw the exit poll and hung around, disbelieving at the sight of the kindled embers and lukewarm glow of a f...
Joker
October 05, 2019

Joker

October 05, 2019

Joker

Joker The trailer did its work, flashing images of anomie and fury perfectly pitched for these unstable times of precarious working conditions, grievance and institutional indifference. For these same reasons, Joker , directed by Todd Phillips and starring Joaquin Phoenix as the protagonist, has attracted pre-release criticisms like few other recen...
September 29, 2019

Resisting Whiteness event 2019

Resisting Whiteness one-day event, Edinburgh Returning for the second consecutive year, Resisting Whiteness came yesterday to the Pleasance Theatre in Edinburgh, providing an intense and inspiring series of panels, as well as a wonderful spoken word section, and a final segment based around the documentary short Invisible by internationally-acclaim...
August 21, 2019

Hearty by Emma Frankland

Hearty by Emma Frankland Raw and dripping with punk aesthetic, this one-woman-show's one-woman emerges in ripped tights and a T-shirt that paraphrases loudly the words of anti-trans theorist Germaine Greer: Lop Your Dick Off. My first impression of Emma Frankland is edgily uncertain and in awe, her Lady-Gaga-looks combined with Heath Ledger's mesme...
August 21, 2019

Pronoun, Pass, & Amnesty International

Transgender drama: Pronoun To be clear at the outset, this was the production of a youth theatre group, not a highly resourced team of experienced, professional career actors – although some of the performances left a powerful impression, and the show as a whole achieved some remarkable moments. Pronoun , written by Evan Placey, follows the transit...