★ ★ ★ ★ - The Scotsman

Me & my Dystopiano just got four stars in The Scotsman! And you’ve only got 4 more chances to come witness why.. 7:20pm at the Voodoo Rooms until Sunday 28th August.


Amid the speak-easy like glamour of the Voodoo Rooms critic Ben Walters finds much to enjoy in cabaret shows packed with jokes and inventive musicality 

By Ben Walters

Laurie Black: Dystopiano ★ ★ ★ ★

PBH’s Free Fringe @ Voodoo Rooms (French Quarter), until 28 August 

For many years, the Voodoo Rooms in New Town have been a key site for cabaret at the Fringe, especially musical comedy and magic. It’s a warren of small and medium-sized spaces, not all necessarily equipped with the most sophisticated technical set-ups to be found at the festival but all benefiting from the venue’s vintage speakeasy glamour and charm. The site actually houses two programmes – an in-house paid season, programmed in collaboration with Blond Ambition, and a collection of shows presented by PBH’s Free Fringe. It’s therefore easy, and very pleasurable, to lose many hours moving between cocktails and shows. 

In 2019, rockabilly goth punk synth-rock cabaret act Laurie Black presented a set here about how we’ve all screwed up the planet so much that she wanted to blast off and live on the moon. As you’ll have noticed, things haven’t exactly improved since then. Black’s new Free Fringe set, Dystopiano, doubles down on the pessimistic prognostication, taking thoroughly justified swipes at macho space capitalists, grotesque deep-sea mining concerns and the worst thing about the internet (the answer may shock you!). Black’s preferred psychological coping mechanisms are existentially bracing – think post-human and post-hope – but delivered with an agreeably laidback, nonchalant vibe that keeps things amusing and upbeat even when the most alarming aspects of the wider world are up for consideration. That said, there are moments of sheer outrage and frustration too – call it 80 percent shrug, 20 percent scream. 

Black’s musical prowess and dry sensibility are complemented by plenty of jokes. Her inventive musicality is what gives the show its distinctive formal edge, and earned her a spot supporting Adam Ant on a recent tour. You can feel the love for her craft: in one number, Black serenades her instrument, hailing a romance that’s “more tape and wires than chocolate and flowers”. Combining assured synth skills with real-time drum loops and sampler work, the songs span jaunty, ethereal and rocked-out registers, from space dream to grunge pastiche. Indeed, there’s a Nirvana-inspired number about PMT that brings to mind a comparable parody from The Day Today.