The Hibrow Comedy Hour

This was supposed to be a review of a stand-up comedy show. However, due to the vagaries of the Fringe this evening ended up as a review of Sarah Louise Young’s brilliant Cabaret Whore.

Young is already well-known in cabaret circles. If she were not, then the standard of performer out there would be dizzyingly high.

As the audience made their way into the Dissection Room of Summerhall Complex, we were each individually greeted by Southern-belle Sammy Mavis Junior. When everybody had filed in, she took a seat among spectators and began conversing with some of us – not looking to get any cheap laughs by making any audience member feel uncomfortable (that came later at a few front-rowers’ expense) but to genuinely put the audience at ease. After a quick sip of a random spectator’s drink, Sammy made her way onstage and began her show.

Young, never breaking character, explained to us that the performance was being filmed as a one-off special to be shown at various screening throughout the U.K. With some performers, you could expect this to lead to nerves or for it to take a few minutes for them to settle into their routine. Young, however, seems so in control and so professional that there is never any danger of this. She has the audience in the palm of her hand from the get-go, and though some of her tongue-in-cheek innuendos are a bit telegraphed, I couldn’t help but laugh. There is great satisfaction in seeing something, whatever it is, done so well.

With Sammy Mavis having completed her set, next up was a “diva of a certain age”, Bernie St.Clair. Maybe it was just me but it was about half-way through this Liza Minnelli-inspired character’s set that I realised it was the same woman who had appeared as Sammy Mavis. So convincing were her mannerisms and accent (which she maintained flawlessly even when hitting the highest notes) that I can’t have been the only newcomer to Ms Young’s work that was amazed at this.

Headlining the show was French chanteuse La Poule Plombée. Having seen her singing partnership with one Edith Piaf dissolve when “The Little Sparrow” became a star, Mademoiselle Plombée is the epitome of the melancholy French “artiste”. Again, Young’s accent is flawless (both in French and in French-accented English) and the songs were well-written, giving Young full license to show off her remarkable vocal range. Thrown in with a few unexpected bilingual plays-on-words which meant that this is possibly the strongest part of the act – an impressive finalé.

Young is already well-known in cabaret circles. If she were not, then the standard of performer out there would be dizzyingly high. I would have to recommend it to even the most novice of theatre-goers.

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The Blurb

HiBrow and comedy curators Jilly Burnet and Van Keeling AKA JV Productions team up to storm the civilised environs of Summerhall with some of the festival’s finest comedians. ‘JV have an eye for comedy’ (Ian Hislop).