Aug 19 2021 | By More

★★★★☆    Sharply funny

Pleasance Courtyard (Venue 33): Tue 17– Sun 29 Aug 2021
Review by Hugh Simpson

Press in the Cabaret Bar at the Pleasance Courtyard is Black Bat Productions’ second production of this Fringe, and its second unqualified hit.

David and Kate, two movie producers, are basking in the glow of upcoming awards nominations for their movie Catch Me Some Freedom. Unfortunately, the lead character in the film, played by a white reality show star, turns out to have been Black in real life. Cue a frantic round of back-covering and back-stabbing.

Nathaniel Brimmer-Beller and Rosie Hart. Pic: Black Bat Productions

A ‘very 2021 problem’ led to an emergency recasting at three days’ notice when both original performers had to self-isolate. In their places, Rosie Hart has taken over as Kate until the 22nd, with writer-director Nathaniel Brimmer-Beller stepping in as David for the whole run.

There is no need to make any apologies for Hart. After one early stumble, she was perfect in the role, and no-one unaware of the substitution would have guessed she had been forced to learn the part 72 hours before opening night. Sophie Boyle is due to take over the role from the 24th, and is sure to be equally accomplished.

Brimmer-Beller’s appearance adds intriguing extra layers to the role. Originally written to be played by a white actor, the twisty self-justifications of a character who ‘feels positively that slavery was bad’ become teasingly meta. Brimmer-Beller is such a skilled performer in his own right, however, and his commitment to his script so clear, that the end result is thoroughly impressive.

many genuine laughs

There is a pace and rhythm to the performance that would do credit to much longer-established runs. This is aided by a script that fairly crackles, full of sharp satire and nasty truths. The Machiavellian machinations behind movie-making, and the formulaic franchises it produces, are skewered with something halfway between affection and contempt.

The Cabaret Bar at the Pleasance is a space ill-suited for theatre, but a virtue is made of its limitations with a production that is utterly self-contained and never lets up. This is a short show, clocking in at well under an hour. Unlike so many Fringe shows, however, it is exactly the length it needs to be, and it contains as many genuine laughs as anything you will see this year. Indeed, it flies by in what seems considerably less than 45 minutes, which is always a good sign.

A delicate balance is struck between cynicism and the demands of characterisation. The uncomfortable truths contained within (which, it has to be said, may apply in different ways to the theatre, but are still undoubtedly present) are conveyed in an incisive and entertaining way. And anyone who thinks the story contained here is surely exaggerated for dramatic effect should probably look up who was first slated to play the lead in the Harriet Tubman biopic.

Running time 45 minutes (no interval)
Cabaret Bar
, Pleasance Courtyard, 60 Pleasance, EH8 9TJ (Venue 33)
Tuesday 17 – Sunday 29 August 2021 (not Mon 23)
Daily at 2.30 pm

Information and tickets at
Company website:
Instagram: @blackbatuk
Twitter: @BlackBatUK


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