Peanut butter and jelly. Summertime and sunscreen. Reuben Kaye and the Edinburgh Fringe. When a pairing is right, it is right. Kaye, an Australian drag performer and comic, is a mainstay of the Fringe, known for his bawdy semi-autobiographical humor and full-throated vocals. Equal parts introspective and explosive, he brought two shows to the Fringe in 2022: The Butch Is Back, which explored his origins as a young, visibly queer boy in Melbourne, and The Kaye Hole, a risqué Fringe favorite.
Playbill spoke with Kaye about his relationship to the festival, the artists that inspire him, and what will it take for him to cross over into the United States?Who are the artists that inspired you growing up?
Reuben Kaye: I think I had a visceral reaction as a young boy to the homoeroticism of Caravaggio (who my father adored, make of that what you will.) And then I found real recognition in the genderqueering of Marlene Dietrich, Annie Lennox, KD Lang, Shirley Manson from Garbage, and actually… the speed of The Marx Bros and the cheekiness of Danny Kaye.
Do you think of yourself as a drag performer? What does drag mean to you?
I’d say my drag isn’t so much a questioning or debate around gender, but about masculinity versus femininity within the male body. And I always think of drag as a celebration through transgression, through protest and riot. It raises the stakes.
What is your Fringe origin story? Any “must do” recommendations for first timers?
My origin story? We don’t have that kind of time. Come and see my show. I’ve put it into 90 minutes with a full band, and that makes it tax deductible.
As for recommendations, oh my god, yes! Mum’s. Get to Mum’s for the best mashed potatoes in the U.K. Lastly, it’s not Fringe unless you catch something off an acrobat.
You make a point in your show of talking about the importance of Fringe. What does the festival mean to you?
Where else is there such a vibrant community and exchange of ideas, experiences, and bodily fluids? This is the utopia. Seeing art made by people who don’t look like you, don’t think like you, is the only way we will change the world. Apart from voting.
Any plans for you to bring The Butch Is Back to the US?
Find me a producer with a strong stomach and a pharmacologist with loose ethics and I’m there!