The Underbelly Circus Hub’s Beauty tent is home to a show that fits its old-timey circus aesthetic perfectly. Little Death Club – emceed by the charming and charismatic kabarett star Bernie Dieter – is an hour of rude and raucous entertainment. The performance feats displayed are impressive and the humour a deep shade of blue. The show also functions as a highlights reel for some of the Fringe’s best variety acts, so it is a great way to find out what else is on display at the festival.
Dieter, seen at Edinburgh’s La Clique Noel last November, brings her signature punk Weimar vocals and performance aesthetic with wit and gusto. Dark, delicious, and with no regard for personal space, she delights in both the double entendre and statements far more direct. Her strong, rangy voice is utilised excellently throughout original songs – some ribald and rocking, some more tranquil and tender – and compelling exhortations to the audience: she is not afraid to demand the world of the (mostly male) members of the audience.
Cabaret and variety shows can be difficult to review – when someone swallows fire or keeps more hula hoops spinning than many can carry, the feat is impressive enough by itself to draw applause and enjoyment. The cast of Little Death Club are not only consummate professionals in their chosen arts – drag, comedy, trapeze, and the aforementioned fire- and hula-tricks – but also consummate showmen and women. The technical prowess on display is only half of the show; wild, wonderful, and (in one delightful case) wilfully bored personas add to the winning formula. One might come for the routines and stay for the charm, cheek, and masterful performances.
The majority of the acts, as well as Dieter’s songs and speeches, are irreverent in the extreme: highlights include a fire-juggling striptease, a ‘bearded lady’ bait and switch, a song about many a woman’s Tinder inbox, and a drawn-out onstage costume change – ostensibly for the sake of the acrobatics. However, one act and one speech towards the show’s conclusion are raw, displaying a vulnerability shown in the other portions’ wonderful artifice. The rawness is unexpected, but its truth is surprisingly, genuinely moving.
Little Death Club is a grand night out at the Fringe, a showcase of some of the festival’s most accomplished acts tied together by a captivating emcee. Fans of burlesque and variety will be well satisfied, and anyone looking for a fun, stress-free night (trust me, everyone knows what they are doing with fire and a trapeze) of bawdy humour and daring tricks are in for top-notch entertainment. Just do not go with your parents.
Little Death Club plays at 20.00 daily until 25th August. Performances are at the Underbelly Circus Hub on the Meadows (the Beauty). Tickets cost £15 (£14 concessions) and are available through the EdFringe website.
Creator: Tom Velvick, Bernie Dieter
Musical Director: Marty Hailey
Cast: Bernie Dieter, Jess Love, Kitty Bang Bang, Myra Dubois, Josh Glanc, Oliver Smith-Wellnitz