Reuben Kaye is a good quarter of an hour into his eponymous show before he launches into an opening medley that blends Janelle Monae, the Rolling Stones and Leonard Cohen.
By then he’s already delivered more lines than some comedians manage in an hour, some of them so densely interwoven that the audience struggles to keep up and the laughs filter in “on Perth time”.
Kaye struts through the Wonderland Spiegeltent like a born performer, a statuesque beauty whose boundless charisma and acerbic wit seem to fill the stage effortlessly. His onstage personality craves, even demands attention and he gleefully dances as the world burns. When he excoriates the government as “the Marx Brothers do Orwell” it’s a rare PG moment and the fact that he can do justice to a Screamin’ Jay tune speaks to his musical prowess.
So it’s a surprise when halfway through the show he drops this facade, at least in part. The filthy humour that precedes it makes his vulnerability even more moving and ability to switch between tones fuels a performance that's both poignant and devastatingly funny.
Kaye’s descriptions of his father’s hands gently moving across a canvas and creating life from brushstrokes are as poetic and emotive as any theatrical performance this Fringe. This tenderness is what makes the show sing, a series of gut punches after the pageant of song and dance laced with filthy humour.
And these give the show its twin themes, of forceful inclusiveness and the power of art to redeem us from years like 2020 and from a society that forces labels on us before we’ve assigned any identity to ourselves. At once political and highly personal, Reuben Kaye is one of the absolute highlights of this Fringe.