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‘I want queer rage’: Reuben Kaye on PrEP, politics and why cabaret is ‘the original punk movement’

Exclusive: "I once had an orgy in my dressing room" reveals stage star, who is taking two shows to this year's Edinburgh Fringe: Live & Intimidating and The Kaye Hole

By Brian Leonard

Reuben Kay
Reuben Kay (Image: Kyam Ross)

Singer, writer and comedian Reuben Kaye has toured the world, from Australia to Canada and the length and breadth of Europe, with his various stage shows. Now, his latest stop-off is Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland, as he brings not one, but two productions to the 2024 Fringe.

Filled with high camp and filthy humour, and musical direction from Shanon Whitelock, the shows will keep the star busy throughout August: Live & Intimidating kicks off on 1 August, and The Kaye Hole plays the following day and on Fridays and Saturdays throughout the month.

Here, Attitude chats to Kaye about Pride, politics (“if we’re gonna be the political football we should be allowed to comment on the game”) and his love of Lorraine Kelly, friend of Attitude!

Having performed at the Edinburgh Festival for so many years, how do you make each experience new and exciting for both yourself and the audience?

I think the magic in Edinburgh comes from the fact that new advancements in amphetamines and opioids mean that each year a whole new batch hits the streets, and that ensures that both me and the audience are bringing their A game to the shows. As long we don’t run out of spoons or nostrils.

You’ve previously expressed that you welcome your audiences’ “home” to create a safe space of community and relatability. Has there been a show that you have seen that that made you feel ‘at home’ too?

I think it’s not so much about a show per se but performers who create amazing spaces: Lea Delaria, Joey Arias, Taylor Mac, Tina Del Twiste, Rosie Jones, Zoe Coombs Marr, Anohni, John Grant, k.d. lang have all changed my life. Seeing John Cameron Mitchell on Broadway was the closest thing to church I think I’ll ever get.

“The world is truly fucked and we are all on the chopping block” – Reuben Kaye (Image: Jacinta Oaten)

Why do you feel it’s so important, in the current political landscape, to continue to bring your iconic performances to stages across the globe?

Because I’m a needy child of divorce and a lifetime subscriber to… One day I’ll find one I like. I think a lot of press is given over to finding queer joy which is important but I want queer rage. For me that is the driving force today. It’s necessary. The world is truly fucked and we are all on the chopping block. Our art needs to reflect that anger as politicians continue to use us to score points. If we’re gonna be the political football we should be allowed to comment on the game.

Are there any acts you’re particularly excited to see at the fringe this year?

I want you to know how much talking about other performers physically hurts me: James Rowland, Michelle Brasier, Sarah Keyworth, Rhys Nicholson, Margaret Thatcher Queen Of Soho and Diane Chorley are musts! But there are so many more. I’m passionate about the brilliant family of queer artists in this festival. Now more than ever.

For anyone who hasn’t seen either of your shows, could you sum them up in three words?

Bring PrEP… Please.

What is it that makes cabaret such a special art form for you?

Like queer people, cabaret is underestimated, undervalued and under-resourced. And yet it is the oldest and most immediate art form. It’s the bastard art form that steals from everything to make something new and dangerous. Cabaret is the original punk movement. It’s the only art form where you can get pithy dissections of society then see someone blowing fire off the end of their cock. And that needs to be celebrated. It is the only art form that has its roots, like Pride, in political protest.

Reuben Kay has been known to incorporate fire into his acts (Image: Kyam Ross)

Your podcast Come to Daddy explores people’s relationships with their parents. How has doing the podcast changed your view of your own relationship with your parents, if at all?

Look, listening to others has never been my strong suit. But I’ve had some amazing guests on the show with incredible stories. Everyone has parents in some form and that relationship is always complicated and nuanced. Especially for queer people. There is no manual for parenting and it’s fascinating hearing from other comics and celebs how their parents have shaped them directly or indirectly. It’s fucking fascinating and we just wrapped season three.

Who are your personal inspirations in the drag and cabaret world?

I’ve always loved Jayne County and the Electric Chairs. Joey Arias. Taylor Mac. Jinx Monsoon, Rhys Nicholson. Gateau Chocolat. Camille O’Sullivan. Jonny Woo. Virgin Xtravaganza… It’s a pantheon of faggotry.

You’ve toured all over the world, was there one performance of yours that has stayed with you and why?

I once had an orgy in my dressing room in Melbourne and some of that has definitely stayed with me.

During The Kaye Hole, you welcome a new line-up of guests every show. Who is a dream guest of yours that you would love to perform with?

Lorraine Kelly, obviously.

What do you hope audiences will take away from each of your shows?

Nothing they can’t get rid of hopefully. But also, a sense that no matter how different we all are we’re all connected because we’re all being fucked by someone or something and that the only way we get out of it is together. Queer rage is important. Family is more than blood. Laughter is the best medicine, but vaccines are more reliable.

Tickets for Live and Intimidating and The Kaye Hole are on sale now and available from