Tuesday, August 1, 2006

(I Am) Nobody's Lunch

by Philip Fisher

Cabaret is big in New York, so it is good that Edinburgh gets to see a fine example of the genre. For some reason, while the UK gets the odd musical revue, this form has never really caught on. The Civilians have subversive tastes and their work is rather like the darkest satirical comedies that one might hear on Radio 4 or see on Channel 4, but with an American slant. As the 28 word subtitle indicates, they are interested in the quirky and have compiled this piece, a winner of a Fringe First in Week 1, from interviews with what they call 'actual persons', as well as an alien from the Pleiades. This is therefore a completely new style of theatre - Verbatim Cabaret. One wonders what some of their earnest contributors will have made of having their words sent up to a piano accompaniment from Andy Boroson. The subjects are the right ones for our time - love, fear and Tom Cruise's sexuality - is he gay? In a very sharp, almost breathless set, the five performers get laughs from public thoughts about these subjects, often cleverly juxtaposed as in the case of two students, one neurotically fearful, the other 'whatever'. Probably the most interesting is a 24-year-old woman who apparently has control over the system that decides whether overseas students get visas, and an Egyptian student. The exposé of a system gone to pot will not have endeared The Civilians to their Government but should give their audience a taste of the ever-popular 'shock and awe' at the behaviour of George Dubya and his team.