Christeene: The Christeene Machine

Edinburgh Festival Fringe Scotsman review (Cabaret): Christeene: The Christeene Machine at Underbelly, Cowgate (Venue 61) reviewed by Ben Walters

[Picture: Richard Davenport]

Plenty of Fringe venues have what might be called a quality of dankness: that humid underground vibe evocative of strange trickling fluids and weird organisms growing beyond the reach of daylight; a sense of fermentation and fertilisation, things that are dirty and alive. This, as it happens, is pretty much the ideal environment in which to experience Christeene.

The Christeene Machine is a sort of drag show but Danny LaRue it ain’t. Rather than diamante, Christeene (aka American performer Paul Soileau) and her two dancers rock a gutter-chic look of sweat-smeared make-up and freakily intense eyes, pillow-case couture and grinding flesh. Instead of showtunes, they serve pounding original rap numbers with titles such as Fix My Dick and African Mayonnaise. And in place of saucy double entendres, Christeene regales the audience with bizarre but endearing, even inspirational ruminations about the challenges of human connection.

Pudding and eggs are given entirely new meanings, and you’ll discover there’s a glorious pony deep inside you that you never knew you had.

It’s fierce, filthy and fun – but it’s also hugely accomplished on a technical level. The vibe might be down and dirty but the songwriting, music production, lighting and costumes are excellent; at one unnerving, unforgettable point, the dancers, C Baby and T Gravel, appear in outsized talons and teepee-sized gowns.

Indeed, these two warrant special praise: despite looking like they would be more at home in a truck-stop toilet than a conservatoire, they prove equally adept at booty-shaking, umbrella twirling and percussive stomping.

However, while the venue’s atmosphere is perfect for the material, its sightlines are problematic. It is a standing show but the stage is low and visibility sometimes restricted – a shame given the potency of the performance. The only solution is one Christeene would surely approve of: get in close and feel the dank.

Christeene: ‘I came up from the dirt’

Until 23 August more info

Originally published in The Scotsman

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