Words by Samuel McDonough
I now know what it would be like if the characters of Mad Max held a talent show.
My friend and I arrive at the Word’s End and order some drinks while we wait for the show to start. We end up waiting a little longer than first anticipated due to some previous shows running over time. As the audience pours into the space we are greeted by the long haired sound engineer (Paul Hilton), wearing a denim vest with sown on patches of metal bands, saying “sorry guys, we were given zero minutes to do a fucking sound check”. As “one, one, one” fills the room I take a moment to appreciate the set design. Aside from a reasonably proficient light set up, decoration appears limited to a gold tinsel curtain hung at the rear of the stage, which serves to almost cover what appears to be some kind of fuse box. “FUCK” exclaims the sound engineer as a feedback screech pierces the ears. The levels are fixed, the lights dim and the show begins.
A narrator informs us that the world has indeed ended, that there are not many survivors, and that this is the kind of show people have been putting on since the apocalypse. Yasmina Intoxicada (Yasmin Hilton) is our host and star. She belts out a rendition of ‘Love Me Like a Barbarian’ for the first performance, wearing gothic makeup, a golden leotard and nothing else. She sings well, moving about the stage with purpose. She is soon joined on stage by dancer Sarika Young for a pas de deux. The moves are expressive and sharp, and the dancers are almost in perfect time with one another. The next act is from Manda Floydd, who gives a stunning contemporary ballet performance to a medley of pop and techno songs. Manda is mesmerising. Her moves are like that of a sentient marionette performing against its will and evoke deep compassion from the audience for the illusory suffering of the performer. In fact, at her conclusion the audience was left in awe, and it wasn’t until Manda broke character to leave the stage that I was reminded that of course that was all an act, and finally felt comfortable clapping. Sarika too gives a strong solo performance dancing in Bollywood-esque manner, with all the expression and purpose of her earlier routine.
There is a moment between performances when afore mentioned sound engineer steps on stage to play the flute. As far as I can tell this serves two purposes: 1) to allow the performers more time for a significant costume change, and 2) to blow your fucking mind. Seriously, Paul plays like a virtuoso. I asked the name of the piece of music he played after the show and he told me he just made it up on the spot; wholly impressive. There is a flamenco burlesque strip tease from Yasmina, though the word tease might be a little misleading as my friend pointed out. The crocheted crop-top was covering very little in the first place. Kristy Hilton gives a professional cover of ‘You and I’ on the Piano. There is a moment when Kristy, Sarika and Yasmina are unicorns feeding on cave crystals, and as the show nears its end we are informed that there are gods from the days of old that have been discovered in this cave. They are Daniel Lyas and Yasmina, and they perform flamenco to Celtic Frost’s ‘A Dying God Coming Into Human Flesh’. I had no idea what a sin it had been to keep flamenco and death metal separate until that moment. Both Daniel and Yasmina are tremendous. The talent for flamenco possessed by Daniel is staggering and this performance was my particular favourite. And the final performance was a drag show by Ben-Hur Winter, a worthy and fitting final performance of the night.
It is difficult to overstate the importance of shows like Word’s End Cabaret. Sure, some sound queues are slow and the performers are not always strictly in recognisable formation, but this is true Fringe material. You are not going to be able to see shows like this one any other time of year and I left the World’s End feeling utterly elated at what I had just had the privilege of witnessing.
If that’s how much fun the apocalypse is going to be, then bring on nuclear war.