Sweatshop review at Assembly George Square, Edinburgh – ‘strong individual acts’

Sweatshop. Photo: Kate Pardey Sweatshop. Photo: Kate Pardey

As it suggests in the title, the premise of Sweatshop, the new late-night cabaret/circus hybrid from the Briefs Factory is that the circus is indeed a factory floor and the artists churn out work till death. It’s a bleak concept but one that is lampooned and the host Mikelangelo plays up to the role of predatory overseer.

It’s an unusual line-up to say the least from the glorious burlesques of Lada Redstar and the breathtaking flexibility of acrobat and tumbler Luke Hubbard. Both exceptionally strong acts but also relatively vanilla compared with the freakish, poultry violating Gingzilla and the machinations of the outrageous sex-clown Betty Grumble.

Individually these are great acts but the linking material is tenuous at best hinting toward a lack of genuine artistic direction. At least the final note about dancing your troubles away is given greater resonance when Redstar offers insight into why she became a burlesque dancer after escaping war-torn Sarajevo.

With cabaret being one of the most malleable of the performing arts, it’s a shame that there was no reference to the chaos that has engulfed the world even since this festival began. Cabaret thrives on that kind of immediacy and without it, it’s in danger of becoming irrelevant.

Subscribers to The Stage get 10% off The Stage Tickets’ price
Strong individual acts that struggle to cohere in the same show