If you find yourself anywhere in the vicinity of Reuben Kaye when he is performing, run. Run fast and don’t look back. If you make eye contact and the divine devil that is Kaye himself engages you with a sinister smirk, a heavily eyelashed wink and a seductive smile, you are lost to us all. His façade is an expressive cross between Liza Minnelli & Jack Nicholson and it’s been the end of many a man.
We haven’t even gotten onto Kaye’s razor-sharp wit, a tongue that will cut you in two and leave you bleeding in ecstasy on the floor. Kaye is simultaneously the master and mistress of both silence and speech – exceptionally intelligent conversation and lightning fast retorts effortlessly intermingle with satire, space and the ever-present threat of an innuendo. Break this all up with a semi-orgasmic silence that only Frank N. Furter has yet mastered and here we have the makings of a life-changing evening for some and life-affirming for others.
Vegetarians and heteronormative individuals, neither are welcome at this particular party… Kidding, everyone is invited to the delicious den of iniquity that Kaye conjures forth. Except perhaps Theresa May, Donald Trump or Malcolm Turnbull. These bastions of capitalist greed are navigating Western society into a nosedive and Kaye is having none of it. But that’s not the reason for this show – this is a show to celebrate the most important man of the moment, Kaye himself. A direct, pointed title with no additional description asks the pivotal question – how can you improve upon perfection? The name Reuben Kaye is more than enough to christen this show with, despite Kaye being raised by Jews.
We are about a quarter of the way through the show and Kaye has introduced himself; flung sweat over the audience, a more viable option rather than risk smudging his make-up; and sung some flawless songs with the vocal acrobatics of Xtina, the vibrato of Pavarotti and the power of Whitney Houston. The gift he gives to his audience is to brighten our otherwise suicidal existences with his presence – the world presents us with both Kaye and Beyoncé, but at least Kaye has the dignity not to post all over the internet when he has two people inside him… not. I imagine it would glean more than 6,335,571 likes within eight hours too (the record set by Queen Bey for the most liked image on Instagram).
Platitudes aside and bodily fluids shared, we plunge headlong into Kaye’s past, a childhood of cultural delights and subsequent ostracism. He adds lighting, blocking and overly dramatic effect in a desperate effort to garner back the half star that the critics may have deducted if they were spattered earlier in the show. Don’t worry, the narrative arc is very much present – tiny details are repeated again and again to conjure the illusion of organised chaos. But it is carefully crafted and that’s the beauty of the show. Kaye puts painstaking preparation into ensuring that his set feels as haphazard and heinous as humanly possible.
If there was a manual for how to perform cabaret, Kaye may well have written it. He also, through the sheer force inherent in this production, will definitely have ripped it up, burnt the pages and scattered the ashes. Gone are the days of standing on stage and singing – Kaye literally clambers into the audience in order to immerse himself in the atmosphere. It’s a heady mix of intimacy with restrained disgust – hell hath no fury if you deign to touch his glittery outfits. Even the shadowy corners of the back rows aren’t safe from Kaye’s prowling; he reaches into the darkest crevices of our beings, extracts the most sordid portions of our souls and devours them in one mouthful. All this while he delivers a remixed Kate Bush composition – a gorgeous metamorphosis from weedy teenage boy into fierce, violent, erotic cabaret star.
On top of all this, Kaye is a gifted storyteller. The accounts of his school days, being bullied at the hands of the most beautiful boy in the locker room, have poetic nuance and poignant points to pause, reflect and swiftly break any residual tension with a salacious comment or joke. This singular storyline takes up so much time that the end of the show fast approaches with the onslaught of a freight train. We watch it advance with impending dread, wishing we could suspend disbelief and exist solely in Kaye’s fantasy of hedonistic delights for that little bit longer.
Reuben Kaye ends with a pre-prepared encore, whether we like it or not; of course we like it – Kaye’s piercing gaze freezes us into acquiescence. It’s a jazzy version of Iggy Azalea’s Fancy, just like Kaye. Unlike him however, Azalea is a racist bigot – the perfect song to receive the Kaye makeover and transform into a genius piece of artistic merit. All this with the coat of a single colour – not black like his soul, but gold like the vibrator his sex slave is no doubt polishing ready for the imminent return. Put simply, Reuben Kaye is outrageous, outlandish and out of this world. If only there were more like him around, we might all love life that little bit more.
Reuben Kaye plays Assembly Checkpoint as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2017 until 27 August 2017. For more information or to book tickets, please visit the website.