Edinburgh Festival Fringe cabaret review: K’rd Strip: A Place to Stand, reviewed by The Scotsman’s Ben Walters.
“Who am I today?” That’s the refrain of one character we meet in K’rd Strip: A Place to Stand, a remarkable show whose form is as fluid and shifting as its subjects. Created by New Zealand’s Okareka Dance Company and inspired by Auckland’s Karangahape Road – a gentrifying red-light district – it fuses haka and other forms of Maori culture with dance, song, drag, comedy, spoken word and drama.
The result is a swirling, intoxicating portrait of a queer zone: a place in which defiance, exuberance and pleasure commingle with violence, alienation and self-neglect; a place where insecurity might wear a horse’s head and destiny might come in the shape of a trans sex worker.
Okareka’s six performers are impressive, clad in boots, leather skirts and giant plumed headgear, sometimes striking warrior-like poses, sometimes swishing, sometimes sizing each other up in hilarious birdlike cooing and strutting routines. But they also emerge as distinctive individual characters, from repressed macho to motherly drag to narcissistic kid.
The show’s attention to both group dynamics and individual experience comes to the fore in a bravura dance sequence inspired by smartphone hook-up apps – a highly effective and entertaining expression of that peculiarly contemporary sense of being alone together.
As the piece develops, the connections between its various disparate elements grow clearer and a stronger narrative emerges – one in which the psychological tensions at work within this cacophonous environment are seen to be more troubling, even brutal, than we might at first have thought. K’rd Strip becomes a darker place, where it’s harder for the colours and laughter to paper over the deeper problems at work.
For all its glamour and energy, then, this isn’t an ode to joy so much as a tribute to a place where people try, against the odds, to make their lives.
Assembly Roxy (Venue 139) until 31 August / listings
Published in The Scotsman on 28 August 2015
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