“You’ll laugh, you’ll weep – the banjo musical of the century.”
Andy Riley (The Book Of Bunny Suicides)
While I am sure that Andy and the Prostitutes are very aware that there isn't that much competition for the title, the idea of "the banjo musical of the century" persuaded me to drop my wariness about musicals and take a closer look at how a band with the sort of name that really can get a blog an immense amount of hits intend to take the Fringe by storm with only a band made up of top quality musicians and a fascination with taboos and fear.
Andy McKay - cartoonist, banjo maestro and leader of The Prostitutes is determined to prove that the banjo is the right instrument to lead the assault. "The banjo is a fascinating instrument with quite young roots in modern society," he explains. "It originated in Arabia but was brought to North America by the African slaves, so, as far as taboos go, the banjo has seen it all. I personally believe there is a spirit in the soul of the banjo that has the power to break down barriers and bring light where there was once darkness."
The banjo's soul has filled McKay with a righteous enthusiasm. "Quite simply, as Dan Ackroyd said, ‘We’re on a mission from God!’ he adds, before pointing out that he has the band to back up his claims. "I am from a bluegrass background, Richard the violinist is from a classical background and Alex, the bass player is from a punk background so it is a mixture of ideas coming together."
Indeed, Richard Moore, the youngest member of the band is "a prodigy of Nigel Kennedy. he graduated from Brit School primed and ready to rapidly ascend the showbiz ladder." For the Fringe, the band has decided to challenge itself to create the musical - a genre that McKay is quick to embrace.
"What is a musical?" he asks. "It’s a marriage of words and song and that is exactly what we are doing. There is a narrative tying the music together which takes the audience on a journey. It might not be Blood Brothers in the West End but it will entertain in a not dissimilar fashion." Concentrating on those aspects of society usually hidden away lends the gig an edge that goes beyond a series of sketches into something that can stand next to the hoards of musical hopefuls who arrive in Edinburgh.
For the Prostitutes, their name has been a blessing. "We are certainly not forgotten very quickly," McKay laughs. "However, it has been an issue in the past and venues have even changed the name to make it less provocative (we were Andy And The Pros once) but most people see the funny side of it which is what we want. In terms of climbing to stardom, we are mainly falling down drunk in the other direction so it is not too big a problem!"
Andy And The Prostitutes - The Musical
3-26 August (not 6, 13, 20)
Venue Number 146: The Phoenix , 46 Broughton Street, EH1 3SA