Edinburgh Fringe Review: Lady Boys of Bangkok Fur Coat and French Knickers Tour, Meadows Theatre Big Top, Edinburgh, 26 August 2011
Take the hits of Rihanna and Lady Gaga, add a dose of 500 Miles, combine that with a wardrobe of over 400 costumes, and then fill the stage with sixteen transvestite performers from Thailand (plus a contortionist) all in the space of one hour and forty five minutes – and you get the Lady Boys of Bangkok at the Edinburgh Fringe.
What you get is something which sounds like it could be an extravagant spectacle, but is in reality an extravagant disappointment. Yes, I am going to go against the mass crowds who gathered in Edinburgh to see the Lady Boys this Fringe and claim that it is the most over-rated show I have ever seen.
Looking at the statistics, you would surely be forgiven for thinking this must be a fantastic show: this tour is their 13th year performing in the UK; they have their own Fringe venue in the Meadows; they perform up to three shows a day in a marquee which can hold eight hundred people; and they must be one of the most expensive shows at the Fringe, at an average of £20 per ticket. Yet they sell out. Again and again.
In forking out £20 for a seat at a small table near the back, I expected something exciting. Having seen the fantastic Vive Le Cabaret at the beginning of the Fringe, I had high standards of what to expect from a cabaret show.
The show began and I very quickly became disillusioned. The amazement of how much like women the Lady Boys look wears off very quickly (for me at least; my male companions remained distinctly confused throughout the whole show). Then comes the actual performances. Not a single word was spoken or sung live, and the lip synching would make Britney Spears look a perfectionist. The dance routines were basic, often copied directly from the music videos, and lazily executed. The front(wo)man of the big dance numbers must be commended for the amount of energy s/he put in; but it was not enough to distract from overall talentless performances.
That’s the main thing: the Lady Boys do not even appear to have any talent other than a high level of endurance for surgery and an eagerness to show off the results. All the talent of this production appears to lie back stage: in the costume department, the stage management, and especially the marketing and PR department who have somehow brainwashed the masses into thinking this is a good show. These people have done fantastic jobs.
That brings me to the most puzzling point: why is this show so popular? I can only assume the answer must be found in the original event promotion: ‘Edinburgh’s biggest party’. It is a party. Hen parties provide a huge chunk of the target market. Like in a club, the audience is treated to current hits, plus crowd-winning local favourites like 500 Miles and Loch Lomond. Granted, the atmosphere was fantastic during these last two songs – few Scots could fail to feel a sense of patriotism at hearing them – but this atmosphere was created by the audience, and inspired by mere recordings.
Perhaps this would be a great show when on a proper night out. I reckon I would have enjoyed it had I had a few more drinks beforehand. If you want an expensive party and a spectacle, then by all means go; but don’t expect to see anything genuinely impressive.
Image Credit – Madhouse Associates