TROPICANA at Edinburgh Festival Fringe
“Sadler’s stage presence is really engaging”
Aidan Sadler’s queer comedy cabaret Tropicana is a lively, wonderfully camp evening of entertainment, as Sadler performs a selection of 80s classics interwoven with stand-up routines (with the occasional story tangent thrown in). Sadler comments on the infamous ‘wanky Wednesday’ audience of the fringe festival but perseveres through a bit of a slow start to get the audience nice and warmed up for what turns out to be a really fun evening.
The dark, wide stage is bare, except for a pale orange dress which hangs up on a stand. Sadler is non-binary and makes a point of telling us they feel outside of the gender binary. A lot of the show talks about deconstructing gender, but it never feels preachy. They check to see who’s in the audience tonight. The straights are welcome, Sadler promises, and they are pretty included on the whole, to be fair. At one point one of them is asked if he’d like to try on a dress. He politely declines the offer, and consent is important after all so Sadler improvises their way to the next bit of the show. It does feel a little uncomfortable, but Sadler’s response puts us all at ease. At another moment they stare intensely at someone in the crowd, but it’s all part of the fun.
Sadler’s vocals are very impressive. They perform Spandau Ballet’s ‘Gold’, with gold confetti flying out of pockets and shoes; the orange dress is manipulated like a puppet to perform part of The Human League’s ‘Don’t You Want Me Baby’; and they manage to get the whole audience joining in for the chorus of ‘Take on Me’. Where the jokes don’t always land, the songs make up for this. Sadler’s stage presence is really engaging, and they just seem totally comfortable during each of the numbers, even when the crowd are playing a little hard to get.
Some of the humour is a little vulgar; something about a cum-stained magazine I didn’t quite catch, and it’s certainly a bit hit and miss with tonight’s crowd. But behind the jokes which often attack heterosexuals or ‘ASOS gays’ is a very honest and open sense of vulnerability from Sadler. We learn about their experiences during lockdown: a mental health crisis which led to the eventual making of the show. The humour we realise is actually very self-deprecating, and the writing of this show is an act of catharsis for Sadler. It might not appear so on the surface, but like many of us, Sadler is filled with anxiety and body confidence issues, which they share very candidly with the audience.
It’s one of those shows that does rely quite heavily on the audience, and I would’ve loved to have seen this with a fuller house. Sadler is an incredibly talented performer, and the show makes for a really fun and queer night out.
Reviewed 10th August 2022
by Joseph Winer
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