Reuben Kaye's acclaimed solo show The Butch is Back opened at the Southbank Centre's Purcell  Rooms last night. The show sold out at Edinburgh Fringe and has toured the UK and Europe throughout the autumn and now hits London for a limited run. Backed by a six-piece band,  Reuben takes the audience on a whirlwind journey of his life through music, stand-up comedy and gallons filth.  

The atmosphere is electric the second Reuben Kaye steps onto the stage. Oozing with charisma,  the jokes start hitting with 110mile speed and whilst you process the one that made you laugh you probably missed the next one. There is so much charm in the delivery and presence in this artist that once the facade drops and we are talking about the real stuff from politics to queer rights, coming out to family relationships it hits hard. Comedy creates the perfect platform for  Reuben to segue a wide range of topics with wit and zing, and you never feel uncomfortable that maybe you should not have gone there.  

The evening is perfectly orchestrated through music, where stand-up comedy meets musical theatre, re-inventing queer cabaret with a bang. It feels as if the music is feeding Reuben, who is like a marathon runner in this show, etching toward an emotional climax. And we get a real heartfelt moment, as he encounters his early life experience with his father teaching him how to paint and feeling the frustration of not being in his element. Years later, sitting in front of a mirror after his father's funeral, realising the lesson lives on but through the art of drag painting. Here's where the music and storytelling harmoniously tug the heartstrings.  

Reuben Kaye jokes that “art is the sport for faggots”, if that is the case, Reuben Kaye is an Olympian. Talent like his rarely seen and many A-listers would kill to have the charm, wit, ability to be present, musicality, energy, drive…I could go on. The short and sweet of it is this artist flies strong in this show, and out of the many Australian cabaret shows in London this Christmas, you should not miss this. And finally, his pronouns should be: TALENT! 

It runs until 30 December.


Review: Jari Laakso          Photo: Holly Jackson