State-of-the-art cabaret – with a bite
As MC Miss Frisky points out, the Sweatshop is the Fringe. Coming from the same stable as Hot Brown Honey and Briefs, it's unsurprising that the cast includes some of the Fringe's most exciting acts, with an omnisexual appetite and a line in charged vaudeville routines. Yet for all the jollity and naughty acts, the message of Sweatshop is raw and even political.
Miss Frisky plies her distinctive brand of pop parody – intelligent, sensual, witty and sardonic – before introducing a selection of risqué but always skilful performers. Betty Grumble rips up stripper choreography, morphing into a primate and pushing the glamour beyond beauty into a distorted pathos. Jared Dewey is graceful in the air, relocating masculinity within a gentle and erotic context. A comedian is forced to run along a treadmill while telling jokes. And the symbolism of that act isn't a cheap joke, but a comment on the attitude of the Fringe to any performance. Keep running, keep making the audience laugh: maybe you'll get a prize.
Unlike most cabarets, which are willing to let any commentary remain a subtext, Frisky dares to drop the façade, silencing the crowd with a simple reference to the horror of the culture surrounding this enclave of decadence. It's the boldest move, forcing the audience to see what their pleasure relies upon: mass exploitation. They quickly get back to the laughs, but the cold shudder of recognition lifts Sweatshop above the usual fun and games.
Underbelly's Circus Hub, run ended.