The sheer size of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival means that any performer that manages to distinguish themselves from the wild, multifarious pack is left at a critical crossroad. On the one hand, they gain the pedigree and platform to return to the festival with a better chance of finding success again. On the other, they are saddled with the weight of expectation, with audiences anticipating the familiar elements that helped them fall in love with the show, while hoping for something bolder than a simple rehash of the original piece.
a compelling mess, a fascinating and rough fifty minutes that commits fully to its punk aesthetic
Rachael Clerke found success at the 2014 Fringe with a comedic one woman show about Scottishness, but returns here with Cuncrete, featuring a punk rock band of drag kings with an entirely different focus in mind. This is a pertinent performer who doesn’t fear renovating her image.
Cuncrete is a compelling mess, a fascinating and rough fifty minutes that commits fully to its punk aesthetic. The show essentially takes the form of a gig, with preening drag king punk band the Great White Males providing loud, messy tunes that fully support their billing as anti-virtuoso but also provide an intense background noise that helps carry forward a sneering script. Part sung, part spat, Cuncrete confronts the realities of capitalism and ugly masculinity within the bricks and mortar of the world around us. Particular focus is given to the housing crisis and to the manufactured consumerism and jealousy that perpetuate capitalism as the dominant ideology of the Western World.
The malleable, cheaply produced material, concrete, is a recurring motif, used variously to symbolise the quick and easy highs that consumerism offers and to offer a grotesque insight into the hedonistic masculinity that is the driving force of so much that is wrong with our culture. Clerke’s alter-ego for this show, Archibald Tactful, is a hideous, sleazy and entertaining figure who is representative of all sorts of things, but is best regarded as the most selfish, arrogant and manipulative part of human nature.We could analyse Cuncrete brick by brick, but the show is best experienced as a whole. It is only a shame that not all of its lyrics were entirely audible, though it would perhaps undermine the in-yer-face, punk style to have a tidy little lyric sheet printed in a little program. The show is broad, bold, brutal and manages to make a compelling connection between masculinity and rapacious capitalism. It is also overwhelming, and in a strange sort of way the actual connection between that same capitalism and the concept of home ownership or the act of building itself remains curiously oblique. It’s a riveting and complex piece, but one thing is certain: Clerke and her Great White Males are building themselves a reputation.