The name Hedwig originates from old German, hadu = battle; wig = fight. Strangely appropriate, then, for the latest treatment of Hedwig and the Angry Inch currently at Greenside, which is much more punk than many previous versions that have gone before.
Hedwig has a huge cult following. Born out of New York's Squeezebox Club in the mid-nineties, it takes its cues from androgynous glam rock idols such as David Bowie and Iggy Pop. Hedwig is as much a rock concert as it is monologue. The plot revolves around the title character, a drag queen rock star and leader of a band called The Angry Inch. The format of the show is at one of Hedwig's own gigs, playing at a small venue next door to the larger main arena where her ex-lover, Tommy Gnosis, is headlining. Hedwig tells the story of her escape from East Berlin, her rise to international obscurity, and Gnosis' plagiarism of her own work.
This production, with Joe Swarbrick as Hedwig (he also co-directs with John Lynch), has been customised for an Edinburgh audience. There are also many elements of improvisation from Hedwig - after all, this is her concert. It's a darker view of the character than I've seen before, and Swarbrick is not afraid to deal with the audience. Spitting, throwing water and casting insults. The enthusiastic crowd lap up this abuse. It takes a brave director, and you have to be very comfortable with the character, but this works - and it works well.
Stephen Trask's score is Rock Opera at full volume, and the band thrash out the numbers with unbelievable power. Swarbrick's vocals are gutsy and emotive - with Sugar Daddy and Lift Up Your Hands being two of the really excellent songs tonight. As for the acting, there is almost visible electricity between the performances of the two main characters, Hedwig and Yitzhak (played by Lydia Wilson). Wilson also has a chance to show her vocal talent during Yitzhak's solo.
If you haven't yet seen Hedwig and the Angry Inch, go now. If you've seen it before, go again and take a look at this new perspective on it. You won't be disappointed.