NewsRevue
Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh Fringe Festival,
Director: Katie Pesskin
Musical director: Tom Barnes
Cast: Jessica Brady, Daniel Collard, Naomi McDonald, Matthew Pennington
Dates of run: Aug 3-19,
Running time: one hour.

 

In the confusing explosion of activity that is the Edinburgh Fringe, NewsRevue has the huge advantage of being a known brand whose appeal is all the greater when a torrent of unsettling news leaves us craving comic relief and the decades-old formula of satire set to music is still the best of tonics.

This year’s cast of four, backed up by the NewsRevue’s extensive team of writers, brings high-octane energy to the unavoidable topics of Brexit and political meltdown.

They stop short of the biting and subversive, but take enough risks to defuse any criticism it’s all too tame.

Above all, the wit of musical review resides in the adaptation of classic songs and the choices are apposite.

My Way is the theme tune for Cameron, who “fucked up” his way, while Boris is back with “I will Survive” as the backdrop to the moment when Brexit dawned and at first he was afraid, he was petrified.

Best of all Michael Gove’s “Favourite things” include raindrops and bigots and passive aggression.

Theresa May’s cabinet reshuffle is a rapid whirl of musical chairs when the survivor Boris leaps the fore with his very own chair.

The focus is largely British-centric, but extremism sadly has cross-border reach and NewsRevue dares to attack it, mocking ISIS with a ludicrously upbeat version of YMCA.

Its rendition of ‘Can a Queenie be a Queenie all of her life?’ complete with a call for a French crash for Camilla also slips into more risqué territory.

If abdication is for many still taboo, so is death and singing about who will be next – maybe, shock horror, national treasures such as Judi Dench and David Attenborough – in the year when we’ve already lost David Bowie and Alan Rickman has a morbid frisson.

On Scottish territory, a simple crowd pleaser is a sketch giving Andy Murray, sounding excited as ever, the role of the new James Bond, while he sets the condition that there’s also a role for his mom.

And then there are the one-liners that intersperse the skits and rich, musical fun.  The stand-out is a series of remorseless attacks on Nick Farron, Lib Dem leader and political nonentity, who time and again is unrecognisable – to the public, to his staff and even his wife.

If there is a serious, underlying message, it is the appalling lack of political leadership and the concern that even those in power or seeking it on either side of the Atlantic don’t really give a damn about anything beyond their own ambition.

But in truth this show plays most of all to our own desire for sheer entertainment, not deep political thought.

Barbara Lewis © 2016.