If you’re living right, this could happen to you. Down a steep flight of stairs that lead to a minuscule subterranean bar underneath another bar barely the size of a walk-in closet, across from the toilets – because sometimes great things can happen accompanied by the sour tang of humanity – a pretty young woman steps through a dusty black curtain singing
She should be in a designer gown, draped over a gleaming white Steinway, with a tuxedoed Anderson caressing its keys. Under a crystal chandelier. On New Year’s Eve.
The singer is Catriona MacLeod. Her cabaret show is Cat Loud’s Big Night In, which she wrote. She is accompanied on keyboard and accordion by Finn Anderson, who plays divinely. It happens just after lunchtime underneath Moriarty’s bar on busy Lothian Road, and it’s free.
She begins her performance as “Cat,” a confident mini-diva who worships Bette Midler (there’s a small portrait of Midler surrounded by votive candles near the tiny triangular stage). In a sleek black dress and gold-sequined cape, Cat purrs her way through a self-referential version of the old Rodgers and Hart show tune The Lady Is A Tramp. She boo-boops I Wanna Be Loved by You, flirting shamelessly. Her patter is caustic and funny: 'Edinburgh is the only city where pandas outnumber Tories,' and 'The streets of this city are like the Internet but in 3-D.' To a patron named Dan, she says, 'Dan – that’s Latin for Plan-B.'
Then comes her mid-show transformation from sassy Cat to softer Catriona, the nice girl from the Hebrides. She lets down her hair and in a bit of awkward-but-clever illusion, changes costumes in full view of the audience. Twice.
MacLeod’s voice, strong and clear on or off the mic, has a tantalising vibrato. She and accompanist Anderson haven’t worked together before, they say post-show, but their voices and personalities blend like butter and toast.
She makes a quiet, confessional ballad of Billy Joel’s She’s Always a Woman and turns Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps into an invitation to misbehave. But she is always vulnerable, always open without being too needy. And she is a spellbinder.
For now you can see MacLeod two flights down, but you can imagine her rising to better things. She should be in a designer gown, draped over a gleaming white Steinway, with a tuxedoed Anderson caressing its keys. Under a crystal chandelier. On New Year’s Eve. This woman has a Champagne personality temporarily assigned to a pint-sized venue that can barely contain it.
If a performer like MacLeod doesn’t deserve the same quintet of stars that the big names on bigger stages do, then what’s a Fringe for?