The Las Vegas cabaret star on her award-winning game show, and the importance of conversation in a world filled with Brexit and Trump
The last time Miss Behave brought her game show to the Fringe, a friendly fracas occurred between a scantily clad acrobat and an audience member's breast.
'I had this acrobat run up on stage and strip all of his clothes off naked, only to do a back somersault and land in the splits,' she explains. 'Then, a female audience member ran up on stage, ripped her shirt open and basically titted him off the stage. And the thing is, that's kind of normal.'
The cabaret star has been running her award-winning game show for some years now, and is currently the underground hit of the Las Vegas cabaret scene. To understand why, in her world, normalcy involves starkers somersaulting and using 'titting' as a verb, you really have to understand the nature of the show itself. And that nature is innately human.
In its simplest iteration, The Miss Behave Gameshow is about the audience having fun and winning prizes. With the help of 'aide-de-camp' Tiffany, they are divided into two teams (which is often decided by their phones). Then, they complete simple challenges – perhaps the most winsome of these being 'do anything for a point'. Over the years, this challenge has wielded everything from group deliverances of the can-can, to nose picking, cartwheeling and more.
'The rules I give them are: think for yourself, don't ask don't get, use your initiative, nothing means anything, life's not fair, and I don't make the rules,' she explains. And so, in that way, people let loose in their most imaginative (occasionally naked) ways. 'I create a space for people to do what they want, and slowly, they realise they can.'
While the absurd antics and tongue-in-cheek rules can result in a raucous night out, there's also a powerfully intelligent premise beneath the show's sequin-coated surface. In essence, it's about human nature, and the way in which we interact with each other.
'Having done it for a while now, I can see patterns of human behaviour,' she says. 'I understand who I would be in that audience, and I understand why somebody is acting a certain way.' There are the observers, the active participants, the ones who engage as the action revs up, and then, there are the ones who don't engage at all. And if you're thinking that sounds like a metaphor for the way we as a society are operating within the strange and turbulent times we're living in, well – that's probably worth a point.
cedit: Prudence Upton Off stage, Miss Behave has some strong views. She's anti-Brexit, anti-Trump, anti-this-world-as-we-know-it-crumbling-around-us, really. 'I'm very clear on my political opinions,' she explains, 'and I think that what is happening is the most terrifying thing – not only in my lifetime, but in political history. I think this can blow WWII out of the water. It sure as fuck blows Nixon out of the water.' But none of her beliefs drive the agenda of the show. What pushes the show forwards is the way it facilitates open dialogue and kindness.
'I need to remain neutral politically within the show,' she says, 'because it doesn't help the show, and it doesn't help the audience, if I berate someone for voting Leave.
'As Gamesmaster, you can say what you want and I can respond to that. Improvisation is a large part of the show. But if I come on and cast judgement because of how we are now, it would negate the whole function of the show and ruin it forever.'
Within that framework, the audience are free to act as they will (with the hard rules that there is to be no homophobia, racism or misogyny whatsoever). This is because the show aims to be inclusive. 'But the thing with inclusivity at the moment,' she explains, 'is that it has to include the people that are diametrically opposed to your opinion. Or else what I'm doing is not being an impartial Gamesmaster. I'm being a judgemental bitch in this particular setting.'
As an artist, she believes it's important to use her platform to promote dialogue, and is angered by shows such as Sacha Baron Cohen's satire Who is America?, which features some controversial scenes about Republicans and guns, among other things. 'Did it help the conversation? No. I got so angry because it was so unhelpful.' She believes that the satire is not 'cutting edge' because 'the world has changed but the format has not.' In other words, we need to do better.
She suggests there's a new way to think outside of the box when it comes to politics and entertainment. 'I have a feeling that maybe the most radical act, the most edgy, out-there act, could be kindness and listening,' she says. 'I'm going to be really looking around for that when I'm in Edinburgh.'
So, what does all this have to do with a game show featuring breasts, acrobatics and the can-can? Quite simply, it's about giving an audience permission to exist in union together, with a foundation based on kindness. Once that foundation's built, it strengthens us, whether we're winning a point in a Fringe show, or winning a debate. 'It gives people permission to play in a joyous, non-judgemental way,' she explains. 'We're all free, and in some ways it's taking adults back [to being] kids again. I think the message is that we've got to be nice to each other, including ourselves.'
That's not to say that there aren't problems to address in the world. 'I think everything's fucked,' she says confidently, 'and I don't think it's going to get better. And because of that, I used to say, "let's just dance on the debris of humanity".' But since Trump and Brexit, that outlook has changed.
Now, she simply points out that whoever has won, has won, and we have to learn to keep talking and being kind. 'I say that life's just a game, and there are no winners and losers – just players. We're free to do whatever we want, but so is everybody else. So let's be nice to each other. It costs us nothing.'
The Miss Behave Gameshow, Gilded Balloon Teviot, 8–18 Aug, 10.30pm, £12.50–£14 (£10.50–£12).
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