Shirt starched, suit pressed, aquiline features poised and painted in pale sinister colours, Dusty Limits is ready to penetrate the dark heart of cabaret. This year the pipe cleaner-thin performer has written a cycle of songs about mental illness – about paranoia, anxiety, despair and the way society defines and controls crazy people.
Homosexuality, he reminds us, was classified as a mental illness by the American psychiatric establishment right up until 1974. Our hero has been leafing through the DSM, the big American bible which defines categories of mental illness. In fact, you could say he’s become a bit obsessed with it. Obsessive, compulsive, narcissistically fixated, if you will.
This is everything cabaret should be: dark, subversive, funny. And there is political awareness too, about the sinister implications of finding yourself “on a list”. The songs, co-written by pianist and accompanist Michael Roulston, are cleverly constructed, with a range of styles from show tunes to tango to 1980s pop.
There’s a huge amount of energy here, and this is a consummate performance. But I like Dusty best when he really lets rip – when he throws back his head, throws caution to the wind and rages against the world.
MORE INFO: Dusty Limits is at Laughing Horse @ The Counting House
Originally published in The Scotsman