Frank Olivier is certainly multitalented. He’s also crazy. So when the performers for Frank and Paul’s cabaret show fail to turn up one evening, Frank insists on performing every act himself. Paul will play the role of glamorous assistant and MC, complete with hunchback and limp and so Twisted Cabaret is born. Paul introduces Frank in a number of interesting costumes to perform a variety of weird and wonderful acts.
The whole show feels thrown together and slapdash. But that is its charm. Frank seems to have a few screws loose but is in fact a very talented circus performer. Initially he’s a juggler dressed in formal wear before deciding to simultaneously juggle 5 balls and remove his clothes, revealing a pink ballerina’s costume. Now Frank (thankfully) is no ballerina, but he can ride a unicycle. So he hops on board, cycling around the rather small performance area simulating ballet to raucous audience laughter. Next Frank decides to switch costumes and swallow a sword whilst Paul hammers it down his throat. He quickly runs off stage to change into a sparkly magician’s outfit, complete with ruffle, so he can perform card tricks. Then comes the fire eating and breathing, the drag act on stilts with a swing, the Indian yogic guru who inhales balloons through his nose, and finally the unicycling, fire breathing, guitar playing juggler. Exhausting.
Of course no cabaret is complete without some audience participation. Audience ‘volunteers’ are selected and perform with Frank – they dance ballet with him; they help him with his magic tricks; they sit on a chair as he swings around them on stilts; they even help him switch on a taser ready for juggling.
From one moment to the next, the whole show could either be a roaring success or a complete car crash – Frank doesn’t exactly exude confidence. But enthusiasm, he has that in spades. He never messes up, never drops a trick and always seems to pull off every stunt. The problem is that each of the acts individually is commendable but not extraordinary. All have been done before, all are fairly typical circus big-top style acts. Frank dresses them up in costume to give them some difference, but all in all it’s just another well performed and endearing circus-cum-cabaret show.
Twisted Cabaret plays at the Gilded Balloon (venue 14) until August 30 as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. For more information, visit the Fringe website.