Sometimes a show comes along that is so ambitious, despite the constraints of Fringe theatre, that it takes your breath away. And when it achieves all that it attempts to do, you know you're witnessing a bona fide hit. Leoe and Hyde’s show succeeds on every level – musically, dramatically, and by being very funny. It absolutely rates as a must-see.
The Marriage of Kim K, as its title suggests, mashes up Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro with the exploits of Kim Kardashian, as seen on Keeping up with the Kardashians. There are extracts from the opera, heavily augmented by new songs, and played live by a mini-orchestra of a string quartet plus percussion and keyboards. It's all seen through the eyes of a fairly normal couple, Amelia and Stephen, sitting at home in their living room.
Amelia is a lawyer; she enjoys Kim Kardashian’s make-up tutorials on YouTube, and likes to catch up with the TV show when she gets in from work. Stephen, on the other hand, is a struggling songwriter looking for inspiration by watching Mozart operas. As they bicker over the remote control and switch between the two, their relationship begins to fall apart like those of Kim and the Almavivas.
The shows on the two "channels" are played by separate pairs of actors, on opposite sides of the stage. The story's set during the short-lived 72-day marriage of Kim and basketball player Kris Humphries, and James Edge is hilarious as the shallow Kris – obsessed with his wife's famous posterior, sex, and (occasionally) basketball. Meanwhile, over on the Mozart side, Emily Burnett delivers some much-needed class and superb singing as Countess Almaviva.
The vocal performances are great across the board, with new musical pieces for Kim and Kris contrasting with the opera arias for the Count and Countess. The overlapping delivery sees Amelia and Stephen carry on their lives intertwined with the others, and it's all backed up with music played live at the side of the stage. I told you it was ambitious.
The set is cleverly split in three. The Kardashian third is glam, and features the show's superb flyer image on the floor; the Figaro side is appropriately classical, while Amelia and Stephen’s homely living room sits in between. Costumes are similarly just right, with the contrast between the countess's formal gowned elegance and Kris in a towel catching the genre-bending nicely. The different couples mainly stick to their own parts of the set, so when they suddenly break out of those zones, it’s a dramatic deviation from a seemingly pre-determined course.
Leo Mercer's script is razor-sharp, and very witty too; I loved what happens when Amelia, complaining about not being able to understand the opera, switches on the subtitles. Occasionally the quick-fire switches between scenes aren’t quite in sync with the remote control, but to make a point of that would be nit-picking in the extreme.
The Marriage of Kim K is outstanding. Leoe and Hyde have aimed for an ambitious target – and they've hit the high note they're hoping for.