THE RHINESTONE COWGIRL RIDES AGAIN
I first saw this cabaret-theatre character here in 2002, drawn by curiosity because the theme was “Tina C’s Twin Towers Tribute”. Under a year on, it could have been the car-crash acme of Fringe tastelessness. I stayed to admire. The occasional metamorphosis of writer-performer Christopher Green into a glitzy Nashville diva is up there with Dame Edna for calculated, needle-sharp humour and party-time rapport with an audience. Born on the gay-cabaret scene and honed in many a pub, marquee, inflatable cow and festival, it even flowers intermittently on Radio 4 – no mean feat for cross-dressed satire in a rhinestone miniskirt, and proof that Tina doesn’t depend only on her (not inconsiderable) physical glamour .
It’s sharp, that’s the thing. The swipe at American showbiz grandstanding after 9/11 was if not exactly harmless, pretty well deserved. The idea was that this steely, self obsessed C& W star woke from anaesthetic after cosmetic surgery to find everyone emotional, distressingly learning that for once, everything wasn’t about her. So while every other country star was lucratively emoting patriotism and revenge, she was helpless in hospital with a face like a baboon’s bum.
Over a decade since I have kept up with Tina’s shows: the lifestyle guru insulting the audience with elegant patronage, the claims of entertaining troops in Eye-rack, her explanation of the banking crisis, her Presidential candidacy. Like Edna’s the legend grew: “First I was a girl, then a woman, then a brand, and now – (chokes with emotion) I’m an ideology”. In this show, disguised as a book launch event with songs (“Does Margaret Atwood do that? Does Jane Austen?”) the story told, with several new songs and lines and some beloved old ones. The spoof country lyrics grow ever more delicately filthy ” It aint easy being easy” and ” No dick is as hard as my life” – as he skewers the glitzy feminism, blingy lifestyle, early years poverty tales bulging into marble-and-onyx consumerism , and the soupy religiosity (“Make it pretty for Jesus!). And, of course, the country pain,: Tina explains that the deal between beautiful famous people and us oiks is that you must pretend to suffer.
To parody so well you have to be half in love with the genre and its people, and Green is: the music itself (he plays guitar well and keyboards superbly) disgracefully carries you away. Tina’s “I am America, my body is this land” is both rude and strangely inspiring, and there’s an awful stir in her Iraq war anthem (“Shock and Awe! Sexier than internnational law! I am America, hear me roar”) . Even in the inaptly arid lecture-room environment to which Underbelly have daftly moved her, the whole audience succumbed to Tina’s iron control, and not only did a brief line-dance but sang along to her hyper-Republican campaign song Tick My Box (she makes Sarah Palin sound mild).
Green has other strings of work – Ida Barr, a coming book on stage hypnosis, theatre events – but it seems that Tina is not yet being pushed over the Reichenbach Falls with her cowgirl silk fringes flying behind her. She may not be an ideology, but she’s still an event. Hell Yeah!
http://www.edfringe.com to 17 August