Melinda Hughes is a prodigious cabaret vocalist and political satirist who brings her new show Off The Scale to this year’s Fringe, backed by a wonderful three-piece band. The show takes us through a range of characters, styles, and commentaries on various aspects of the world as we currently know it. As a frontwoman, Hughes has got it all – style, stagecraft, and of course that key requirement, a killer set of pipes.
Hughes has got it all – style, stagecraft and a killer set of pipes.
Whilst being quintessentially English, Hughes also takes on characters including Melania Trump, and performs a song in a country style, as well as dropping her signature operatic belts. The political satire and observations about the times we live in are fun and poignant, but she doesn’t tell anything that other Edinburgh shows aren’t also discussing. Consistently quaint but seldom laugh-out-loud funny, Off The Scale is confortable and enjoyabole viewing without being provocative.
The songs are played wonderfully by her jazz band, featuring drums and double bass, and led by the highly esteemed Fringe maestro Michael Roulston on keys. There is a little interaction with Roulston, especially at the end as they bounce off each other effectively during a quasi-duet, but considering the depth of his talents, he is certainly underused throughout the show.
While the links and stories are strong and Hughes is everything you'd want from a lead cabaret performer, the true measure of this show’s quality has to be its music. There are some standouts, including songs themed around Twitter abuse and selfie-holics, but a few numbers fail to make a real impact, or prove memorable. The writing and ideas are all good, they just lack a certain ‘je ne c’est quoi’.
Off The Scale is certainly worth seeing, and Hughes is a joy to watch. If the team behind it can spend the next year writing songs to match the quality of their skills as performers then they could prove to be unmissable cabaret in 2020.