Reviews/Cabaret/Fringe World Festival

Dazzling show delivers timely message

26 January 2021

Brave, brazen and surprisingly poignant, Reuben Kaye’s latest show is not to be missed, says Nina Levy.

Reuben Kaye ·
The Rechabite Hall, 21 January, 2021 ·

It’s been three years and a pandemic since I last encountered the outrageous wit of Reuben Kaye. He made a dazzling impression on me as the MC of 2018’s Club Swizzle, with his OTT lashes, gorgeous gender fluidity and absolute disdain for any form of convention.

Seeing his new 2021 solo show at Perth’s Rechabite Hall, however, I realise that what I saw at Club Swizzle was just the tip of the iceberg.

Some elements are as I remember: he loves to mercilessly tease anyone who appears straight (his band members, hapless punters), and even in these hygiene-conscious times, he’s more than willing to share body fluid (so don’t sit too close to the front if you’re concerned). And, again, judging by the audience response, it seems it’s impossible not to fall for his charm as he struts the stage, singing songs that are mash-ups of old favourites and original lyrics/compositions, the fantastic band – the Kaye Holes – never missing a beat in spite of having had just one rehearsal to keep up with his rapid-fire patter.

Reuben Kaye, about to surprise the opening night audience with his next move. Photo: Naomi Reed

But this is a solo show, with much more room to manoeuvre than an MC role affords. And, of course, the world has changed a lot since that first encounter.

The first hint that this show is going to go deeper than lighthearted swipes at the straights comes in the form of a high-speed roll-call of all that’s wrong in a world where the gap between rich and poor is ever-widening and the future of our planet seems to rest in the hands of multinational corporations.

From here we barrel backwards in time to Kaye’s experiences as the son of somewhat eccentric European Jewish parents, growing up gay in suburban Melbourne, in the 80s and 90s. Though the account is infused with Kaye’s dark sense of humour, it is nonetheless shot through with sadness and its conclusion (no spoilers) is bittersweet in its poignancy.

Kaye knows how to finish (no pun intended), though, and from here the only way is up… but this is no superficial crowd-pleasing final number. Instead, it’s a paean to a new world, a world in which fixed gender roles dissolve and our sexual diversity, as a species, is celebrated. And it’s a steadfast warning to those who resist change: it’s coming, whether you like it or not.

If appearances are anything to go by, the opening night crowd looked to be mostly straight, middle-aged plus and mainstream. It gave me hope to hear their enthusiasm for Kaye’s timely message.

Don’t miss Reuben Kaye at Fringe World this year. He’s what we all need right now.

Reuben Kaye continues at The Rechabite Hall as part of Fringe World 2021 until 14 February. And at the same venue he hosts The Kaye Hole, a late-night show with various Fringe performers from 27 to 31 January, and 3 to 7 and 10 to 14 February.

Pictured top: The dazzling Reuben Kaye. Photo: Naomi Reed

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Author —
Nina Levy

Nina Levy has worked as an arts writer and critic since 2007. She co-founded Seesaw and has been co-editing the platform since it went live in August 2017. As a freelancer she has written extensively for The West Australian and Dance Australia magazine, co-editing the latter from 2016 to 2019. Nina loves the swings because they take her closer to the sky.

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