*** 3 Stars
No Fringe festival is complete without the two decade plus stalwarts bringing there Sabai Pavillion to the capital and pleasing there ardent fans with a 90 minute cabaret romp fusing together pop music from years gone by and modern chart hits, sublime costumes, powerhouse dancing and good old fashion drag routines to produce a fun night out for everyone.
Firstly the elephant in the room is of course the ethics of what audiences are watching, everyone on stage is to some degree biologically “male” although the reality is they are transgender women, having undergone years of hormone therapy and surgery to perfect their gorgeous female forms. There are four actual male dancers who also dawn the high heels for one number plus one “traditional” comedy drag act. The show is essentially billed as an exploitation of women who are men on stage therefore the first five minutes are spent marvelling at the fact these simply beautiful women were born male. That being said, it’s clear from watching these ladies they are loving being on stage and bringing sass and glamour to the festival.
The performance itself, a tight 90 minutes including interval sees the lady’s perform a plethora of music from Madonna to Elton John and Lady Gaga to name but a few finishing with an “additional” extra Scottish encore, an encore that appears every year for their Scottish dates. It’s highly polished and performed with precision from the entire cast, there are no live vocals everything is lip synced which is quite a feat considering the entire cast come from Thailand.
Comedy it’s added to the mix thanks to a traditional comedy drag queen whom pulls various people from the audience for sketches alongside loving tributes to Dolly Parton and Tina Turner and gives the show real colour, again all lip synced but done in a polished manner.
The big downside to visiting the Lady Boys is the desire to crowbar every single penny out of their audiences, arriving to an overzealous security bag check where even sealed bottles of water are removed from the audience for the only purpose of ensuring audiences will purchase drinks for their expensive bars. Beware your first drink will cost £2 extra as you have to pay a deposit for a washable plastic glass or beaker (don’t worry if you give it back at the end of the show you get the money back). There is also Thai food on sale, Merchandise; savoury snacks, confectionary and if you have any money left you can have a photo on stage during the interval with the Lady Boys!
Ethics and downsides apart its clear to see that the Lady Boys remain as popular now as they ever have been and they do deliver a high skilled and polished Las Vegas cabaret style night out for the masses and for many bring the colour and pizzazz that’s been much missed over the last few years.
The Lady Boys of Bangkok, Summer of Fun Tour, Sabai Pavilion, Lothian Road Venue 189 for tickets go to: The Lady Boys of Bangkok – Summer of Fun Tour | Cabaret and Variety | Edinburgh Festival Fringe (edfringe.com) or direct from the venue.