There’s surely no better cabaret act on the festival than Peter Straker’s astonishing set in the Pleasance cabaret bar at the strangely un-witching hour of late lunchtime. Straker’s voice covers the waterfront of Jacques Brel, Kurt Weill, Cat Stevens and Randy Newman, bidding us a tender farewell with Noel Coward.More...He screams like a banshee, wails like a Greek heroine, rasps like a sailor and pleads like a rock star.

His director, Mel Smith, puts him in a cocktail bar dressed in a silver jacket decorated with a Manhattan skyline silhouette, hair in a pony-tail; he’s an Inca deity crossed with a Jamaican hipster, utterly unique. No one else could do such histrionically absurd justice to “Macarthur’s Park,” and that cake he left out in the rain is dutifully splashed with a watering can by his side singer Rebecca Brewis.

Rebecca’s dad, Peter, an old revue accomplice of Mel Smith, is as accomplished a piano accompanist as is Mike Moran for Denise Van Outen across town. And who but Straker, old buddy of Freddie Mercury and Kenny Everett, could switch from Janet’s “Touch Me” from The Rocky Horror Show to “Moon River” from Breakfast at Tiffany’s with such skill and aplomb?

If you’ve never seen Peter Straker, you must. And he’ll remind you of how it all started for him with the exquisite setting of Hamlet’s “What a piece of work is a man” from Hair. Brilliant.

- Michael Coveney

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