The Lady Boys Of Bangkok have been drawing in big crowds at Edinburgh Festival for many years now. In fact, they're almost as much part and parcel of our annual cultural explosion as our world-famous military Tattoo. I'd never made it along to one of their shows, but this year I wanted to change that.
The fact is that The Lady Boys Of Bangkok is a strange name for a major show that you may end up enjoying and recommending to others. It's a show title, in fact, that will cause no small amount of arched eyebrows and sniggers.
Never mind such things. The show put on for the audience is just fantastic. All of the performers mime along to hits that include the latest popular dance tunes (this show featured the likes of Gangnam Style, brilliantly done, and crowd-pleasing stuff from Nicki Minaj, Ne-yo and Girls Aloud, to name a few) and also a selection of beloved standards - My Way, I Will Survive, The Best, etc.
Oh, and there's plenty of sexy dancing. Things are at their very best when the impressive dance routines mix humour, real skill and some occasional thrusting. They dip to their worst, though I may be in the minority with this opinion, when the cheeky routines give way to more unsubtle, almost cringe-inducing, crudity. A "comedy" song and dance about Fifty Shades Of Grey just left me impatiently waiting for it to end, while a singalong of Who The F**k Is Alice? made me worry that we would all see a special cameo appearance from Roy 'Chubby' Brown.
A strange, musical circus designed to let a drunken audience enjoy themselves to the utmost, The Lady Boys Of Bangkok is a mixture of gaudy delight and potential awkwardness. It's a fine line between performers providing a spectacle and performers BEING a spectacle, and it's always just one step away from being nothing more than lowest common denominator fodder for the masses. Everything moves along so briskly and loudly that nobody has the time to consider just what it is that they've actually paid to see anyway.
There's plenty here for men to enjoy, but many of the song choices make it clear that this is all planned as a great night out for the ladies. Judging by the women singing and dancing around me, this show knows its audience and it doesn't matter what I say now anyway.
But I will end with this. I had a lot of fun with this show. In fact, for 3/4 of the show I had a great time. There was one number in particular - My Way - that actually hinted at how much more these performers could give audiences. The performer, changing from dress to suit, mimed along to the Shirley Bassey version before things moved, eventually, to the classic voice of Frank Sinatra. It was poignant, it gave the whole song an extra layer as the person onstage seemed to struggle with keeping one identity from start to finish, and it was brilliantly executed. But it was also completely removed, tonally, from the rest of the show.
I'm glad that I finally went along to see The Lady Boys Of Bangkok and I'd recommend people go to see them at least once. Would I go back? Probably not. Despite the razzle dazzle of it all, despite the enjoyable music and despite the impressive dance moves, I still feel that I overpaid slightly to watch some people mime on a stage while lots of people around me drank slightly more than they should have.
You can buy your tickets for The Lady Boys Of Bangkok here and their main website is here.