Edin_Thumbnail2(2).jpgTwo weeks in, and The Shimmy has been taking a close look at cabaret. Preliminary reports are being returned. From Eat Your Heart Out, there is the contention that variety has become too main stream, and the suggestion that the ukelele is too popular: what cabaret really needs is Live Art sarcasm and a bitter drag harridan. Vive Le Cabaret has minimalised the burlesque – last year, the production company Blonde Ambition staged High Tease, which was burlesque-filled. This year, they are pulling in the acts from all corners, and now have a vaudeville show that is both polished and comprehensive, fulfilling Des O’Connor’s vision of a vaudeville revival. Kitty Cointreau’s Burlesque Graveyard is an old school mix of comedy and striptease: once again, it is the “novelty acts” – that is, the ones that display a skill – that are thrilling and not the burlesque.

On my other hard drive remain the fragments of a study of the cabaret revival. Called the Burlesque Aesthetic, it began life as a collection of random musings on the current state of the scene. Inspired by that time I nearly messed my pants seeing The Tiger Lillies, it grappled with the idea that the revival was all about reinterpreting the past in the context of the wired age: a sort of Weimar meets Facebook. Unfortunately, my vision of cabaret, pretty much inspired by Dust Limits’ intelligence, the Creative Martyrs’ surrealism and Des O’Connor’s Normal Show floundered when I realised that the burlesque aesthetic was actually getting shop-worn.

I don’t mind that there is so much of it. I am just concerned that so much of it is lazy, and feels like the product of a scene fuelled by YouTube and sympathetic audiences. I was speaking to one Scottish veteran about The Wau Waus. When they replied that they’s seen them years ago, I couldn’t help but wonder why their act was so mundane. After I read Hunter S, I decided my criticism had to be personal, shameful, vibrant, engaged and wild. I could not go back to the objective standard. I had to be willing to be unpopular, to shock, to challenge. I might fall on my arse – even my team of writers are contradicting my opinions and exposing them as naive – but I am giving it a go.

I guess the Fringe gives me a choice. I could go and see another cabaret, or nip over to see Lemi Ponifasio, and get my mind expanded. I am too old to hammer drugs and alcohol, too shy for fleeting sexual encounters, so I have to get my kicks somewhere. The revival of cabaret is increasingly old news – it has shaped up as the rival to the hegemony of the comedian, thank God – but it is beginning to have paid its dues and recognise the need for actual talent and technique. If the strip based routines are getting called on their lack of imagination, this is a positive. They might get up and act like artists, escape the clinging, conforming, comfort of their scene and, like, say something.

Of course, as a man, I am uncomfortable actually saying what I think about that. So I chatted to the mighty Diane Torr about it…