EastEnd Cabaret: Sexual Tension

Wed 30th July – Mon 25th August 2014


Ellie Taylor

at 09:05 on 2nd Aug 2014



In Sexual Tension, EastEnd Cabaret has gifted the Fringe audiences with a show that is not to be missed for those who love to laugh. Somehow, the presentation of vixen Bernadette Byrne and man-woman Victor Victoria manages to twist traditional cabaret into something ‘other’: a form that lacks the classic cheese but retains all of the humour. Simultaneously gut-wrenchingly awkward and strangely sexy, the audience will be laughing too hard to question the influx of feelings that the performers provoke. No one is safe from Bernadette and her sultry yet ferocious advances towards her audience members – to be clear, this is a show to be attended only by those who are unafraid of some substantial audience participation.

Although it is safe to say that Bernadette stole the show with her outrageous exchanges with several men and women, it would have been incomplete without the various contributions of Victor Victoria – be that her accordion playing or her hilariously sinister interjections. In her one solo song of the evening she left the room roaring, demonstrating that she can effectively command the audience without her partner. Together, the pair present a whole range of reasons to bawl with laughter, with their individual assets paling in comparison to their chemistry as a pair.

Song was used within the performance to brilliant and various effects. Naughty and ridiculous, the songs in the show all manage to lead back to the crudest of sexual topics without sounding repetitive. The general smut of the show is happily reinforced though this medium, and provides some catchy tunes for the audience to sing, or laugh, along to. Whilst the lyrics are cleverly worded, the topic itself is never a complex one, but often unexpected. What would have been anticipated from such a show are ostentatious costumes - which is an expectation that the pair fully meet. Victor, of course, as half-man, half-woman is the most attention-grabbing in this respect and further contributes to the peculiar nature of the performance. Bernadette is clothed to suit her sexual but dominating character, with her feathery attire not softening her sharp look but giving it an animalistic edge well suited to her lewd discourses.

EastEnd Cabaret created a wonderfully filthy show that made the audience laugh from start to finish. Although it may not address topics of substance, an audience that goes in with the intention of being entertained will not be disappointed.


Lili Thomas

at 09:37 on 2nd Aug 2014



Trailing into Topside’s theatre, the husky voiced cover of Britney Spears and velvet covered tables quickly transform the queue from its conference styled politeness into a real Friday night crowd and I pretty speedily hide my notebook under my bum. Any attempt at a tactical middle row seat selection is pointless, don’t even try. This is a cabaret in full glory. I’ve never seen a cabaret by two women, more fool me, East End Cabaret is titillating, thrilling and, at times, faultless.

No one is sheltered from the spider-esque stalking of Bernadette Byrne, whose performance is a delightful mix of ludicrous wit and sultry confidence. Clambering over seats she seems propelled by the tangible fear exuding from all nearby men as she hunts down her next victim. At times I could only be grateful she was wearing a jumpsuit. But if you’re not sure about audience interaction please don’t let this put you off; the hilarity is beautifully controlled by the charm of the comedy duo. The moment Bernadette quietly broke into genuine giggles was uncontainably contagious purely due to her preposterous previous control.

The musical talent of Victor Victoria ranges from racing piano fingers to an accordion and although she occasionally appears too try-hard in her squawkiness it’s forgiven under her increasing sexual frustration. Her ridiculing interruptions are never side comments but often observations which strike truth hilariously on the head. The duo master switching between interactions with us and with each other with equal cheek and facetiousness, including us in their 16+ rated lives a little too much.

Sexual Tension prances along the border between a ‘Chicago’ style seduction and a Flight of the Concords straightforwardness. Each song comes as a treat, mixing debauchery with surprisingly believable opinions. Their wit has taught me a lot – the joys and dangers of a ‘Bendy man’ and the magical delights of my fridge. Songs which stood out as real gems of comedy.

I couldn’t help but wonder how each night might differ since so much of what had me laughing, an unpleasant and horribly distinctive noise, seemed so spontaneous to our audience. The pair of friends is now reeling in the awards so the theatre was unsurprisingly packed out, but rightly so. Mixing the safety of professional entertainment with the menace of a hand-twitching blackout this was a personality fuelled cabaret of highest class. With wagging marigolds, flying popcorn and plenty of gin I’m sure East End Cabaret will remain one of my Edinburgh highlights.


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