Dandy Darkly’s Pussy Panic!
Dandy Darkly

Edinburgh Festival Fringe Scotsman review (cabaret): Dandy Darkly’s Pussy Panic! at CC Blooms (Venue 171). Review by Ben Walters

Dandy Darkly
[Picture: Alex Hewitt]

Imagine a cross between Pam Ayres, Liberace and Tales from the Crypt – those old horror comics in which moral lessons came dripping with sensational, supernatural gore – and you’re on the way to picturing Dandy Darkly.

Describing himself as “a classically vicious sissy” and “a celebrated, desecrated, inseminated storyteller of sex and death”, this New York-based performer specialises in highly wrought tales of the macabre with a queer twist.

This show’s four satirical yarns deal with “pussy panic” – the fear some men (especially gay men) harbour for female genitalia and, by extension, power – and there’s nothing else like them at the Fringe.

Pale, portly and foppish in a rococo ensemble of white, cream and yellow, Darkly could pass for a millefeuille pastry with a moustache and miniature top hat. His manner is shriekingly camp – a self-conscious throwback to an outmoded type of waspish wit – but the prickly persona is the vehicle for stories of gruesomely compelling verve.

Subtly accompanied by a soundtrack of light percussion or trilling piano, his fantasies fuse grotesque grandeur and queasy details, and are reeled off in tumbling doggerel verse that bursts with rhyme, alliteration and arresting turns of phrase.

One ominous Italian-American character is “a calzone-cheeked Cassandra” while another finds, as she reaches middle age in frustration, that “a comfortable anger took root”. The stories are deliciously diverse.

We meet Little Sally, whose “hot box” proves so capacious that a phalanx of powerful men move in and occupy it.

There is a face-off between two exploitative celebrity parents, zombies in the making both; a lesbian retirement-home romance proves unexpectedly sweet even as it raunchily evokes “a geriatric, orgiastic jigsaw puzzle” of lusty limbs, and a mincing mortician exploits his female celebrity clientele to shocking ends.

Creepy and clammy it might be, but the show’s political potency ultimately makes it a feminist fiesta.

Until 24 August. Today 6:45pm, more info

Originally published in The Scotsman

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