Reuben Kaye: The Butch is Back review – Edinburgh Festival Fringe ★★★★★

3 mins read

Reuben Kaye bursts onto stage in the full glare of a spotlight, launching into song. ‘The Butch is Back’, and he is here to entertain. Flamboyantly dressed, with a huge skirt which transforms into a picture of Kaye’s face, this introduction is an indication that you are in for a rollercoaster hour. 

Self-described as an ‘actress, model, and award-winning cry for help,’ Kaye is here to mess with your understanding of gender, whilst delivering the sort of show you just don’t very often see anymore, consisting of song, stand-up and incredible bitchiness. 

Full of glitz, sparkles and incredibly quick retorts, Kaye holds the audience in the palm of his hand through the hour-long performance that flies past at top speed. His stage presence is incredible.

Beginning by dragging (with pin-point accuracy) the audience, the UK, various political leaders, and the entire catalogue of oppressive activities committed by the western settler-colonial and imperial powers, Kaye moves on to some light banter and self-deprecating chatter of the sort you’ll be familiar with if you frequent live drag shows.

In between the biting insults, and glitzy songs, there are some surprisingly intimate truths revealed. As you might expect with drag, there is a political element here, with one particularly emotive section about the labelling of queer people: 

Kaye makes the observation that queer people are labelled by others – told by others what they are, before they know themselves. It makes queer people outsiders. It’s one of a number of serious points about who queer people are, and that they just want to be accepted, and able to live their lives, made by Kaye throughout the show. 

One of the themes of shows at the 2023 Fringe is ‘processing trauma’, and Kaye’s show also touches on this. Referencing the holocaust, the AIDS epidemic, and the loss of his own father, Kaye delivers emotional punches in a monologue littered with very strong language. 

Final Thoughts

Kaye channels the spirit of Lily Savage, mixed with Freddie Mercury, with the combination then frotting itself against Kenny Everett to manifest the most high-camp individual imaginable. It’s a glorious, giddy, life-affirming celebration of queerness, with absolute filth included throughout. 

Strongly recommended, this very adult show will make you laugh, cry, and probably realise your own generational trauma. Simply brilliant.

Reuben Kaye: The Butch is Back, continues at the Edinburgh Fringe until 27th August. The show will then tour the UK, before visiting other parts of Europe. 
Featured Image Credit: Edinburgh Fringe Society

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