After two years of COVID and lockdowns, the Melbourne International Comedy Festival is back in its full capacity with a program that spans more than three weeks. My first show of this year’s festival was the one and only Reuben Kaye with his show, ‘The Butch is Back’.
After a year of touring Australia in 2021, dodging lockdowns and COVID restrictions, Reuben has returned to his hometown of Melbourne for a run of nineteen shows! Reuben’s show is more than just your regular comedy gig – it is a cabaret show with an eclectic mix of high energy, powerful vocals, excessive camp energy, and dirty, dirty humour. Reuben is also extremely in-tune with the political landscape, making for some controversial yet relatable content.
Dressed in a shiny, glittery red jacket with what I can only describe as a satin black, ultra-wide hoop dress with the legs cut out (it’s fabulously strange, you’ll just have to see it for yourself) and donning a microphone with a giant black ponytail attached, Reuben kicks off the show with a camp cover of the Rolling Stones’ ‘Sympathy for the Devil’.
Backed by a six-piece band, Reuben showcases his strong, growly vocals. He takes a break from the song to, yes, you guessed it, introduce himself to the audience. Reuben then goes on to discuss the pandemic and what we did to deserve the events of 2020. Taking a deep breath, he rips into what I can only describe as a fast rap of all the horrible atrocities humanity has done. When Reuben puts it into perspective, yeah, we did deserve it. The introduction had me in stiches, and if this was a sign of things to come, I was in for quite the ride!
With a personality as huge as Reuben Kaye, I was surprised to have never heard of him before. I was blown away with the talent that I witnessed. Not only is Reuben hilariously funny and not afraid to dive headfirst into the political landscape, but his vocal performances are also top notch. The aforementioned growly vocals ever-present in each song, but my god, can Reuben hold a note! I was completely blown away!
This show is more than just a comedy cabaret, it is also a deep dive into Reuben’s personal life with a raw emotional tale of how he came out to his parents. As a heterosexual male, I can only imagine what it is like as a young, Reuben describes, “LGBTQI Scrabble board individual”, but this recount of his childhood gave myself and the rest of the audience an insight into what it must be like… It was a mood shift that I was not expecting but one that I am eternally grateful for.
‘The Butch is Back’ is an exhilarating ride of music, fun, debauchery, controversy, and politics. And with the events unfolding around the world today, it was the perfect escape. Or as Reuben said himself, “When the world is a circus, I’m the bitch you want”. He was right on the money with that line, as all my worries were forgotten whilst Reuben was killing it stage.
This fabulous and fantastic show is one that I highly recommend you go and see. Reuben is a force unlike any I have seen before, and I may even find the time to return for another show – it was that damn good!
If, for whatever reason you feel this show is not for you, I would like you to challenge yourself. Reuben Kaye stated it perfectly himself as he closed out the show, advising audiences to see someone at the festival that thinks differently, someone that looks different to you, and you might just be surprised and learn a thing or two.
Reuben Kaye’s ‘The Butch is Back’ is on now as part of the 2022 Melbourne International Comedy Festival at The Malthouse – Merlyn Theatre with performances every Wednesday through to Sunday until the end of the festival.
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