Ruben Kaye – a name and two words that would make any ‘freedom fighter’ and ‘cooker’ red and weak at the knees.
I had the pleasure of seeing Reuben Kaye’s ‘The Butch Is Back’ at last year’s comedy festival and was excited to see what Reuben had in store at this year’s show, ‘Live and Intimidating’. And Reuben is exactly that, live and intimidating.
Upon entering Arts Centre Melbourne’s Fairfax Studio, Reuben was there, ready and waiting at the entrance to welcome each patron individually and give hugs. And I got a hug too! Straight away, ‘Live and Intimidating’ had started with its intimate nature. Worlds apart from Reuben Kaye’s previous show which had him in a bigger theatre and up on a pedestal. Here, Reuben is still in a nice theatre but he feels real and raw. Reuben even made an effort to have people move closer together so that we were all nice and cosy, and ready for the ultimate cabaret experience where Reuben would get up-close and personal with us.
Towering in what appeared to be a gorgeous black sheer pantsuit and equipped with a black swishy horse-tail microphone, accompanied with a three piece band, and with his hairstyle up and stylish that he proudly compared to the late and beloved Princess Diana, Reuben was quick to make jokes about putting queers in the dungeon because Arts Centre Melbourne’s Fairfax Studio is technically underground. And this was only the beginning.
This severely intelligent, insanely talented, cheeky and fearless human held nothing back, poetically and unapologetically addressing topics many would consider taboo including deep diving into sex, drugs, equality, religion, the monarchy, drag queens, and anything else that would make the average right-winged ignoramus weep. Reuben Kaye is not only very aware of the social and political climate, and the conservative noise pollution, but he’s masterful at his craft, providing infectious humour while making statements well worth speaking about along the way. All of this was met with very loud and supportive cheers, with Reuben warmly acknowledging that this theatre felt like his safe space to not only shine, but to be himself.
I am a big fan of this stripped back setting and adored how Reuben used not only the stage, but the entire theatre, including the central staircase and its aisles. Because Reuben consistently went into the stalls to interact with the audience, I felt very much part of the show and I loved it. As much as Reuben turned up the camp, he could dial it down with ease in seconds to provide more serious and serene moments. With his powerful and beautiful voice, Reuben provided great upbeat original songs and also awe-inspiring ballad covers including Carol King penned ‘Will You Love Tomorrow’ and ‘Without You’, made famous by Mariah Carey.
What I love about Reuben Kaye is how humorous yet sincere he is with his quick-witted delivery and its contents. A master of ad-libbing too, Reuben assured patrons that his show is different every night and I would shamelessly go back in a heartbeat. On a more serious note, I think it’s vital to have people like Reuben Kaye visually accessible in the media. Representation is important and I applaud Reuben for staying strong and true to himself, despite the white noise that he cops, which is probably also what makes him so damn likeable and fantastic. This fact alone further fuels my support for this resilient comic genius.
Reuben Kaye is unfiltered, unscripted, uncanny, and unbelievably fucking good. ‘Live and Intimidating’ is essential viewing, Reuben Kaye’s best show yet, and if there’s only one show that you’ll check out at this year’s Melbourne International Comedy Festival, make sure it’s this one.
Reuben Kaye’s ‘Live and Intimidating’ is playing at Arts Centre Melbourne’s Fairfax Studio as part of the 2023 Melbourne International Comedy Festival until the 23rd of April.
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