Edinburgh Festival Fringe Scotsman review (cabaret): Lady Rizo at Assembly Checkpoint (Venue 322). Review by Ben Walters.
“Oh, Edinburgh! I feel like we have this tawdry affair,” Lady Rizo purrs at the top of her set. Once a year, she rolls into town for a good ravishing then leaves, already anticipating the next rendezvous. “I will be seeing other cities though,” she deadpans. What seems like a throwaway line turns out to be at the heart of the matter: this is a show about monogamy, fidelity, cheating and all the messy spaces in between.
It’s also a significant development for this effortlessly magnetic performer. Those who saw her barnstorming shows in 2012 and 2013 will know that gloriously roof-raising singing, outrageously ribald patter and shamelessly up-close-and-personal audience flirtation come as standard. But this show offers new levels of emotional depth and narrative sophistication.
On an immediate level, it’s crazy fun. Rizo demonstrates her serious vocal chops with signature numbers such as If I Were Your Woman and Neil Gaiman’s offbeat charmer I Google You, but also finds space for a bilingual version of mambo standard Sway, distinctive mash-ups (the Carpenters meet Anthony Newley; Cher meets D’Angelo) and potent original tunes written with Yair Evnine, who accompanies her on cello and guitar. The musical riches are offset by rowdy humour: Rizo cracks wise, teases and cajoles spectators and cackles at her own flubs and fancies.
But it gradually becomes clear that it’s also a subtle and surprising story above love. It starts with an early cruise-line gig and takes in romances with an African-American Mormon, a Latin lover in Alaska and a “meat trophy” fitness instructor, as well as marriage, divorce, sexual openness and emotional deception. It’s heartbreaking in its thoughtful ambivalence: Rizo neither claims innocence nor indulges in self-pity: she cheats and is cheated on and owns them both.
Even more remarkable, the show reveals the connections between life and cabaret performance itself, suggesting how a moment of dancefloor lust sparked a connection that collaboratively yielded the Lady Rizo persona we see on stage. “This here is my longest-term relationship,” she confides. Hope she never leaves.
Until 24 August. Today 10:15pm, more info
Originally published in The Scotsman
Going to the Edinburgh Festival?
• Unsure what to see? Read all The Scotsman reviews
• What’s hot (or not): Browse the reviews by star rating
• Don’t miss a thing. Sign up to our daily email newsletter
• Join the conversation with #WOWFEST and follow it live