Reuben Kaye: 'It's about redressing society'
- Katharine Gemmell
- 14 August 2019
This article is from 2019
The cabaret star is back at the Fringe with two shows that cement his reputation as being one of the most riskiest and diverse performers
'Bigger, wetter, faster, harder – anything that can be used to describe a porn sequel can be used to describe this sequel,' says Reuben Kaye, the Australian cabaret star who is back at the Fringe with his unique brand of intelligently filthy cabaret. This year, he's made the brave decision to bring two shows because it turns out he 'just didn't have enough PTSD' after his last Fringe run two years ago.
First up is a new rebranded version of Assembly's late-night offering dubbed The Kaye Hole, where Kaye naughtily invites you to 'slip under' with him. Kaye explains: 'The late-night show is church for people who will never get into heaven and a safe space for dangerous people.' It's set to be a welcome addition to the late-night weekend Fringe scene and will encompass a diverse cavalcade of the festival's riskiest acts. Kitty Bang Bang, Heather Holiday and Beau Sargent will join him for every performance, as well as a changing lineup of special guests, all backed up by his band, the Preferred Pronouns. 'It's going to be late-night variety done right.'
In his titular solo show, Kaye is getting a touch more personal, or as he puts it: 'another exercise in vanity and desperation.' It features original lyrics to well-known songs, whip-smart comedy, plenty of audience interaction and live music from the Kaye Holes (the Preferred Pronouns, rebranded). 'It's fast-paced, dirty, fun,' promises Kay, 'and there will be a little something that will touch you in the end.' All jokes aside, Kaye's cabaret isn't just about the spectacle; it's also about holding a mirror up to society and asking if it likes what it sees. 'It's about redressing society and redressing the perceived hierarchies of society. Where do we all sit in the world? How valued are people in our society who haven't been [valued] previously?'
Kaye uses his own experiences growing up as a young queer kid in Australia to get to the root of these issues. 'It's about me and I, some kind of Jewish faggot who was gay-bashed … raised in sports-obsessed 90s Australia. If I can live and get through it, then anyone can. It's about realising that underneath everyone is human.'
For Kaye, Edinburgh in August encapsulates the good that still exists in the world and the raw human quality that we all possess deep down. 'There's a real sense of community, a sense of belonging, it's unlike any other place on earth – which I think is a Disneyland quote or a P&O cruise one,' he laughs. 'It feels like what I'd want the world to be.'
But whimsical dreaming isn't exactly Kaye's modus operandi, and it's not just the utopian version of the world that he likes most about the city in August. 'The best part about Edinburgh is a lot of the cheap MDMA that goes around and the circus performers who have low standards. All my suitcases are just filled with drag and penicillin.' When I interject that prescription medicine is free in Scotland, he replies, overjoyed, 'Oh good, I can afford to bring some more lashes then!'
Underneath this dark, sardonic wit, Kaye's two shows essentially just want to use the essence of the festival to make the world a better place. 'If I could change one bigot's mind, if I can make the world better from Edinburgh, while paying £2500 for one month's accommodation, and come away from it broken, with a red-raw rash that you can't get rid of, then I'm going to do that in August, 'cause that's what being an artist is all about.'
Reuben Kaye, Assembly Checkpoint, until 25 Aug (not 21), 9.30pm, £13 (£12).
The Kaye Hole, Assembly Checkpoint, 9-11, 16-18, 23-25 Aug, 11.15pm, £16 (£15).