Edinburgh Fringe 2017: No Panel Prize, No Problem

In the absence of a panel prize this year, contributer-at-large Emma O'Brien looks at two charitable ways performers pulled together in true 'Spirit of the Fringe' style

Feature by Emma O'Brien | 28 Aug 2017
  • Daniel Kitson at Monkey Barrel

Good intentions being what they are, it’s not a rare event to come across a show at the Fringe with a charitable connection.

Naked Cabaret is pretty much what it says on the tin: a variety cabaret performance where everyone is naked. And everyone means everyone: the performers, the audience and even – saints preserve us – the venue bar staff. The proceeds of the event were to go to a small UK charity for people with Body Dysmorphic Disorder.

BDD is a condition that means, among other things, some sufferers would rather eat their own kidney than ever be naked in a group situation. So at first glance, Naked Cabaret seemed little like putting on a laser show to raise money for guide dogs; the nature of the event seeming to exclude the very people who benefit from it.

Fortunately, we found the cabaret had a little more nuance than that. It dates from a one-off event at the 2010 Edinburgh Fringe, and was resurrected at the 2013 Adelaide Fringe, where it is apparently now a bit of a staple. In Edinburgh, Alexis Dubus and Emma Bianco host and the proceeds always go to a Body Dysmorphia charity – with the exception of one event which benefited an Australian skin cancer foundation.

Dubus and Bianco stress that it has always been “incredibly positive”, and how normal nudity begins to feel in a room full of it. They report numerous messages after every show describing how liberating it feels to participate. It also transpires that comedian Elf Lyons – who is a regular at Naked Cabaret and hosted the event in 2015 – had challenged herself to perform (in hat and jacket, initially) at the original 2010 event in order to overcome her own struggles with body dysmorphia.

It's an approach that won't be for all BDD sufferers – of which this writer is one – and it would be disingenuous to say otherwise, but it is reassuring to know there was bravery underlying this instance, and the night raises awareness and money without falling into gimmickry. 

Meanwhile, a more impromptu evening was to be found at Monkey Barrel after a group of Fringe performers had their flat door kicked in and their worldly goods stolen. A hastily arranged benefit gig was pulled together for the next night; hearing their comrades were in need acted like a stimulant to tired performers and the club's staff.

Tim Key agreed to perform, knowing one of the theft victims. The inimitable Bob Slayer recounts that by the time he woke up the next morning Daniel Kitson had been in touch volunteering his services. Kitson went on to quip onstage that he could just as easily have replaced the stolen goods out of his own pocket; “After all, I’m minted now”.

The show was said to be reminiscent of the golden days of Late n Live, which Kitson once regularly compered, and raised about £1,000. While this didn’t cover the full value of the stolen goods, Slayer considered that the bigger picture was that, should the Fringe encounter a comrade in need, any effort will be made to help. Summing it up as “a really fun night" and a "lovely, lovely thing”, Slayer – still holder of the Panel Prize given that one wasn't awarded this year – felt it was an excellent example of the spirit of the Fringe.