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Dusty Limits - Darkling
Published on Thursday, 25 August 2011

4 stars

SpaceCabaret @ 54 (venue website)
22-27 Aug, 6:05pm-6:50pm
Reviewed by Craig Thomson

 Recommended for age 16+ only.

Jeremy Paxman was famously pilloried (or perhaps celebrated) for addressing rapper Dizzee Rascal in a Newsnight interview as "Mr. Rascal".  I will attempt to avoid a similar faux pas when saying nice things about Dusty Limits' new cabaret, Darkling.

This, as Mr. Limits reminds us early on, is "a show about depression. And death. With a little bit of politics to lighten the mood."  The term he uses, in fact, is “melancholy”, a state of being rather than an illness.  There is of course a lot of humour to be found in the darkness, and he touches on issues such as suicide and substance abuse to good effect (his opening music-hall number about abortion being a highlight).

It must be said though, that without really knowing whether he speaks from direct experience when he discusses (in particular) mental health problems and alcoholism, the self-referential eye-rolling can occasionally seem a bit glib.

He and his small but well-formed band (keyboard and double bass) play a mix of excellent new writing and appropriated standards, which are all both hilarious and glum.  His vocals are astonishing, with incredible power and subtlety.  As an interactive element of the show, he performs "the saddest song of all time" as nominated by members of the public.  Regrettably, the Hungarian suicide song we were treated to when I was there was overblown rather than overwhelming, and was probably the flattest part of an otherwise excellent performance.  If you can think of a sadder sad song for Dusty Limits to perform, nominations can be sent to This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it - you may win free tickets.

This is a shorter-than-usual run from a Fringe regular, but is still a funny, inventive and bleak look at the world.

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