Whether you love him or loathe him, there’s no mistaking that a Reuben Kaye performance is an event. It’s a fair guess that if you loathe him you wouldn’t have been there, but there were still enough admirers wanting to bathe in his glow to fill the Canberra Playhouse.
The show commenced even before the audience entered the theatre when a scream heralded his arrival in the foyer. A carefully coiffed vision in high heels and black velvet and meticulously applied makeup, Kaye proceeded to move towards the auditorium bestowing hugs and kisses, and posing for selfies with his adoring, occasionally bewildered, public.
Once inside the auditorium he continued to work his way back and forward along the rows of seats, kissing and hugging all and sundry as if everyone was his best friend, and by the time his three musicians (not six as advertised) took to stage to commence the show, they were.
A Multi-Award winning Australian comedian, Reuben Kaye has quickly established himself as a bonafide cabaret star. As famous for his ability to create controversy as for his talent as an entertainer Kaye is a master of the quick-witted riposte, and uses brilliant, sophisticated phrasing as a rapier to disarm and delight his audience.
His topics are confronting and political and nothing it appears is off limits. But as offensive as some might find his comments about religion, the monarchy, and of course sexuality, his ability to express them in sophisticated, rather than coarse, terms, renders them palatable, even thought-provoking and definitely unnervingly entertaining.
He has the knack of making each member of the audience feel that they are his best friend and doesn’t waste time bringing them up on stage. Instead he often leaves the stage to roam up and down the seats to incorporate them into his songs, as some unfortunates discovered during his hilarious rendition of the Gerry Coffin/Carole King opus, Will You Still Love Me tomorrow.
Oh yes, Kaye is also a fine singer and punctuates his stand-up harangues with interesting arrangements of familiar songs for which he was accompanied by three fine musicians, Shanon Whitelock (Keys), Phoebe Neilson (bass) and Bec Matthews (drums).
His performance commenced with the hilariously downbeat Dark Days are Here Again” by The Devine Comedy, and ended with Mariah Carey’s song Without You. By which time the audience was so in his thrall that they joined in spontaneously, and then rewarded him with an enthusiastic standing ovation. You should have been there.
Live and Intimidating was Reuben Kaye’s first performance in Canberra. It doubtlessly won’t be his last.
Reuben Kaye: Live and Intimidating
Playhouse – Canberra Theatre Centre, Civic Square, London Circuit, Canberra
Performance: Wednesday 28 June 2023
Image: Reuben Kaye – photo by Jax Moussa
Review: Bill Stephens OAM