ER at the Fringe: The Last Trilogy
Whether with laughter or desire, expect pulses to race at Spencer Maybe’s multi-character solo show. Based on the delightfully ludicrous premise of a God-ordained mission to save the world from ecological disaster – through the medium of burlesque – The Last Trilogy is one of the freshest experiences available to Fringe audiences this year.
A mix of T-Rex’s Marc Bolan and Stone Temple Pilots’ Scott Weiland both in looks and dance moves, Maybe plays his onstage rock star persona with confident aplomb. Anti-consumerist statements are nothing new, and always at the highest risk of becoming trite posturing in a rock context, but here discourse and performance are kept dynamic by the conflicting voices of its three characters. Each features songs, routines and costumes of their own, with seamless striptease providing many of the transitions.
A Dylan-like, self-styled protest singer-songwriter declares early on how we’re all in danger of becoming “the generation who stopped evolution”. The segment grows weary with baroque, over-earnest dialogue and acting, but two songs later the folk musician melts away to make way for the Devil, promptly and charmingly subverting the hippie tripe with dapper footwork, a feline stride and a slithery call to experience everything in moderation – except excess. Topping the pyramid is none other than God, a comically insecure simpleton who regrets giving men free will and launches into a strip act of his own. The nearly blasphemous ‘godlesque’ skit proves to be not only an ingenious idea, but a hilarious climax as the Lord takes the stage in a clumsy Earth costume (most appropriate for an omnipresent entity) and proceeds to literally strip away every natural resource squandered by humanity.
The compelling simplicity of The Last Trilogy is built on a rather sophisticated structure that mixes genres without ever sounding intellectual or rarefied. Background video projections border on PowerPoint comedy. Confronting the audience with his characters’ direct lines (and occasional predatory advances), Maybe is a one-man variety show, blurring cabaret and burlesque like no revue I’ve ever seen. Its metalinguistic narrative frame brings extra laughs, with Spencer himself denouncing the preposterous mission vis-à-vis with Saint Peter: “I’m 39. Why would young people listen to me?”
Not only sung, but entirely composed by the hunk himself, the songs from the soundtrack include many pearls that move the audience to hand-clapping sing-alongs. All the Devil’s numbers are the stuff chart-topping singles are made of, including the anthemic Champagne ’n’ Cocaine, and Flesh, often performed by Maybe in guest spots. If you like 70s rock, the homonymous Spencer Maybe album featuring the tracks from The Last Trilogy is definitely worth a listen.
As one of the few male burlesquers exploring straight sexual imagery, Spencer Maybe connects with spectators of both genders and all sexual orientations. His feature-length solo show carries the same provocative charisma as his bite-sized outings in multi-act variety shows, with similar effects on the audience. The Last Trilogy is a unique show dripping with smooth sex appeal, clever parody and some serious rock tunes to boot. No small feat, with such a limited cast.
The Last Trilogy. Conceived and performed by Spencer Maybe. Zoo Southside, Edinburgh. 05-28 August (except 15 and 22), 20:45. £5-8. www.thelasttrilogy.com
Spencer Maybe talks about inspiration, burlesque of both genders and why dressing up in drag can help a man get chicks in ER’s exclusive Fringe interview.
Photo courtesy of the performer