Word of advice: the four stars you see here are only for the brave at heart. Twisted Cabaret is a thoroughly terrifying, thoroughly fantastic and hilarious show of cabaret madness.
We are welcomed at the door of Twisted Cabaret by two resplendently dressed men, guaranteeing a delightful show of the most talented variety artists around. But misfortune has struck, they say! Most of our promised entertainers are on a bus stuck at the border! (Which border, we may wonder? Are they stuck at the border between Britain and France? That’s awfully far from Edinburgh). But all is well, for it turns out that our host would like nothing more than to do every single act himself, assisted only by his grumpy ‘producer’ playing the role of the hunchback emcee.
The success of Frank Olivier in his delivery of this cabaret renaissance man is almost frightening. He has a near distressing acuity at every one of the parts he plays. He jumps from sword swallower to fire eater, juggler, unicycle-riding ballerina, and more, showing unbelievable talent in every role he assumes. Sure, the audience does not really imagine that he has transformed into a stiff Hungarian man when he comes onstage to swallow swords, but that does not make the feat any less astonishing. And every one of these personas maintains the high-energy enthusiasm and hilarity to convince people to participate in somewhat (very) embarrassing bits with him.
In drawing upon audience participation, Twisted Cabaret definitely straddles the line of suggestiveness. Although generally not pushing the participants to do anything too heinously humiliating, and allowing for participant choice, the pressure of the crowd somewhat takes away the legitimacy of that consent. Nevertheless, if you are brave enough and want a good story to tell your friends, make sure to take a seat in the front row.
The interactions between Olivier and his participants are painfully hilarious, but the show would not be complete without the deadpan delivery of the producer turned hunchback, Paul Nathan. His few moments to shine prove that he is a talented magician in his own right, but his more background role to Olivier works as an easy and complementary dynamic.
In noting that this show is for the brave heart, I do not refer only to those shy of participating. The truly terrifying part of this show comes at the finale, with Olivier demonstrating some of his most impressive and shocking skills. I will not give anything away here, but suffice to say, many members of the audience were peeking through their fingers.