The Marriage of Kim K (the title is a play – pun intended – on The Marriage of Figaro) marries reality TV with classic opera and explores how people overcome differences in relationships, the conflict between ‘high’ and ‘low’ art as well as the importance of stories and narratives in our lives. Wholly original, funny, weird and extremely polished, this show is an excellent Fringe find.
Having debuted at London’s Grimeborn Opera Festival, this explosive production comes to C Venues’ -1 space. With an eclectic band sitting onstage behind the set (I could spy a drum kit and a few electric violins), this show puts all the workings of the theatre onstage and yet manages to create three believable scenes right next to each other. A sofa in the middle designates the playing space for a modern-day London couple – Amelia, a lawyer, and her failing composer husband Stephen who just wants to write opera. The two continually fight over whether to watch Keeping up with the Kardashians, Amelia’s choice, or The Marriage of Figaro, Stephen’s preference. To the left, we see sexually charged and conflict-riddled scenes between Kim K and her new husband, NBA star Kris Humphries, play out. To the right, two opera singers burst into song at the click of a remote. As Mozart’s Count and Countess, they perform scenes from Figaro that show a marriage failing just as much as the other two portrayed.
With sly references to everything from Wicked to Carly Rae Jepsen, the punchy, contemporary pop score to which Kim K (a perfectly pitched, Kardashian look-a-like Yasemin Gulumser) and Kris (a delightfully stupid and self-absorbed James Edge) sing melds gloriously with the Mozart, while the quirky Minchin-esque tunes of Amelia and Stephen tie everything together wonderfully. As the singing increasingly overlaps, very clever lyrics and skilled arrangements create fascinating medleys through the most unlikely combination of words and music.
Every member of the cast gives an individually praiseworthy performance. Emily Burnett and Nathan Bellis’ singing dazzles in their performances as the Countess and Count while Amelia Gabriel and Stephen Hyde are utterly believable as a struggling young couple. Edge and Gulumser as the celebrity couple perform everything aimed at to front, with a perfectly poppy feel, just as reality stars would. The wonderful voices on show and the committed performances given form a slick, coherent whole. The Marriage of Kim K is surprisingly polished for a Fringe piece and the ingenuity in the writing and music shows as much as the enthusiasm and skill of the performers. Only the amplification lets them down – it kept cutting out and could have been dispensed with if the singers had projected a bit more.
One might call this a marmite show. The bizarreness of the premise, the garish brightness of the set, the unfamiliar mix of Mozart and new pop – all could appeal to or estrange an audience member. For me, it all works. A clever twist of staging at the end, which I will not spoil, ties it all together beautifully. Leoe & Hyde (i.e. Stephen Hyde), the creative team behind Kim K, are truly ones to watch.
The Marriage of Kim K is playing C Venues until August 28.