Alan Cumming Sings Sappy Songs (EIF)



EIF @ The Hub

Aug 6-27 (not 14,15,22)



We ascend the cobbles of the Royal Mile, up from the Old Town slums and tenements, the caves of Free Fringe venues far below us.  We walk into The Hub and we realise – this is not the Fringe any more.  Oh no, this is the Edinburgh International Festival.  This is cabaret at a country club.  We are as Gods as we are shown to our booth, an acolyte in a Hub t-shirt rushes to take our order, nothing is too much trouble.  This is the whitest, most middle-class thing we’ve ever been to.

Cumming kicks off his set with Annie Lennox’s “Why” and it’s stunning.  His native lilt and rolling rrrr is delicious and heartening.  He’s resplendent all in black, everything is polished and sexy (even the carbon fiber cello matches immaculately).

The set list almost borders on eclectic, though tends to flip between Sondheim (no complaints here) and Miley/Adele/Gaga/Katy Perry with a few more obscure musical numbers along the way and a jungle for a condom advert that he made with Ricki Lake .  It’s all a bit tongue in cheek and generally fabulous but to be honest I could have taken more sappy than this.  I wanted torch songs, something to leave me tearful with unrequited love and ennui.

The anecdotes in between numbers get better and juicier as the show goes on.  Tidbits and insights into his time on The Good Wife, flashbacks to performing on the Fringe years ago – and then the best…a Liza story.  Gasp!  My little gay heart fluttered as he dished the ultimate dish.

Everything is simply wonderful.  Except when it isn’t.  Cumming talks at one point about connection and people connecting with each other.  However there are a couple of very uncomfortable connections with the audience.  On this night there is a person in the front row who is laughing incessantly and Cumming tells her to get herself together or go.  The really awkward one comes with his 3rd jibe at latecomers (let’s face it, it’s up to the venue staff to admit latecomers, so take it up with them, Alan).  What he couldn’t see from the stage and due to the lights was this last latecomer had entered in a wheelchair and was walking very slowly and carefully with the aid of two walking sticks.  But most of us in the audience did see that. Very hashtag awkward.

There was also the option to spend another tenner on Club Cumming tickets where he would stay and DJ, sing and hang out with the audience until 3am.  What a bargain!  If you were prepared for it, had childcare organised, weren’t getting home by public transport or had the energy.  It would have been lovely to be told ahead of time by the Hub.

All in all an enchanting evening, it feels almost like visiting some faerie prince in his castle. But you’re trailing mortal mud on your shoes and he is casting an elven level of shade at you for it.