I wouldn’t say that I’m biased, it’s simply that I love this woman.
Picture a scene: a trendy Edinburgh bar, romantic decorations, and a classically trained opera singer decked out in a glamorous ballgown. This is not the scene at Bonbons. It has the opera singer, yes, and she looked every bit the regal performer you’d expect from a night of classical music. It’s even got the bar, at least for a few minutes – before you head downstairs to the not-so-much-swank-as-dank basement, with less to offer in the way of romance than an unwashed sock. It’s a more difficult image to get your head around, the two concepts have no business being together, and yet… they blend perfectly.
Bonbons is an intimate concert that offers a plethora of underrated arias, delivered in an innovative way that ensures no two shows can be the same. The show is designed to highlight the works of under-represented female composers and the setting thoroughly compliments this concept. Led down from the inviting cocktail bar to the compact basement, with peeling paint and seats that cannot and should not be described, you are immediately prepared to tackle the idea of under-appreciation.
The peculiar juxtaposition of the show’s elegant music against its decaying setting creates an endearing environment, enhanced by the show’s complete self-awareness and Tamara Stein’s enrapturing personality. As both the performer and the audience can’t escape the peculiarity of the situation, a bond is immediately formed, making the entire performance feel more like an experience shared amongst friends than a formal concert.
Underlining it all is a beautiful performance by a passionate and dedicated performer, who seems to truly enjoy music and wants nothing more than to give her audience the chance to enjoy it too. Her powerful voice delivers a range as wide as the repertoire, and each song is marked by a conviction that amplifies the artistry of the composition. She introduces every new piece with backstory in a conversational way that feels like a lesson from that one teacher you really liked, providing you with just enough information to more deeply understand the music. Interwoven throughout the show is a deeply personal element, as Tamara shares details of her life that make it impossible not to feel bonded, and to root for her success.
Bonbons is enriching and unforgettable, but it’s a difficult show to properly explain without having experienced it yourself. The contrast of such an elegant performance against such an incongruous setting elevates it from a simple concert to a truly unique experience. It is quintessentially Fringe. I can’t do any better than to say that I want you to see it, and if you’re the kind of person who wants to properly experience the festival, then I know for a fact that you want to see it too.