Every year, the Fringe seems to get zanier, with its sublime productions out-shouted by the ridiculous. Competing for the dubious honour of this year’s maddest show, we have Naked Dictators, a musical comedy that is ‘guaranteed to have you goose-stepping all the way down the Royal Mile.’
The ‘plot’ - and I use the term loosely - revolves around a fictional meeting between Hitler and Stalin in Vienna. It’s 1913 and the wireless is tuned to crazy - not just any old crazy but certifiably bat-shizzle insane. According to the program notes this musical comedy was unscripted, having been formed on the basis of set improvisations. Like the cleavage in a fräulein’s corset, it shows.
The cross-dressing cast, kitted out in suspenders, fur coats, pearls and lederhosen, are accompanied by a four-piece indie band, complete with homo-erotic Hitler motif gracing the bass drum. In 2012 we’re so far removed from the horrors of WWII that a Fringe theatre company could unfurl a swastika above the castle before annexing Leith and no one would bat an eyelid. Hell, if they could make the trams run on time they’d be welcomed as liberators. In spite of boasting a lecherous Joseph Stalin, a comedy Jew and jokes about German paedophiles, Naked Dictators isn’t offensive; it’s just very silly and utterly crazy.
While the four musicians churn out Libertines lite, the cast bellow, gyrate and shimmy across the stage with gay abandon. They sing songs about having ‘No tache, no gash’, and they simulate putting all sorts of things in all sorts of places.
‘She makes my willie feel like concrete,’ says Adie, played by the comically excellent Linford Hydes. That’s pretty much all you need to know about Naked Dictators: it’s stupid, it’s funny and it’s also utterly insane; at times beautifully so; at other times, horribly so. With a bit more focus – and who knows, a script? – there could be the makings of a good show in here.
Naked Dictators is proof that there are some things worse than Hitler – like Hitler and Stalin combined. Avoid, unless you like your crazy to be really crazy.