One of the delights of the Fringe is that it can throw up the unexpected; so, for example, the first time I hear a delightfully bad-taste joke about a recent double suicide in one of Edinburgh's top hotels isn't from any of the ‘edgy’ comedians clogging up the Scottish capital at the moment, but a rather delicious example of lounge cabaret.
Kiss & Tell Cabaret consists of singer Melinda Hughes, accompanied by composer and pianist Jeremy Limb, with Andy Tolman on double bass and Jamie Fisher on drums. There is nothing strident about their performance, what is presented is simply a series of witty, original songs with a subtle, light jazz arrangements which prove to be a far sharper satire on the rich, upper classes than anything some strident 21st century answer to Ben Elton could deliver.
Hughes takes on the role of a vacuous socialite who's feeling 'the Crunch'; not only is she forced to tour her show, but she even has to wear her stylish little black dress more than once–her own take on recycling, admittedly. She's also been forced to downsize everything from her house and car to shopping in Asda and forgoing those regular holidays in Mustique. But she's a trooper all the same, albeit one more at home in Sloane Square than the countryside, experiencing a moment of almost biblical rapture when told, by her long-suffering accompanist Jeremy Limb, that Edinburgh has a branch of Harvey Nichols.
The light sophistication of Kiss & Tell Cabaret enables them to just about get away with songs about treble-dip recessions and disaster tourism in all the world's trouble spots, not least because they're knowingly dressed up in the style of George Gershwin and Noel Coward. Hughes' anecdotes between the songs add a certain charm to the proceedings, as well as explaining (apparently as much for the benefit of her musicians as the audience) the show's title.
Hughes is a classically trained singer, so her diction and projection (especially on some of the more tongue-twisting songs) ensures that a less than acoustically ideal venue doesn't ruin the experience. Limb, Tolman and Fisher provide just the right level of disgruntled support (even when, for one song, they are forced to wear berets and strings of garlic). It's a quality show that, perhaps, could just do with being a bit later in the evening.