Lady Boys of Bangkok keep Edinburgh Fringe party going


The Lady Boys of Bangkok have been one of the biggest attractions at the Edinburgh Fringe for more than a decade and many of their audience return year after year.

This year, the 16 performers in heels and false eyelashes will perform 16 shows a week during their three-week run, each one with a capacity of 800 people.

Not only does the run sell-out but it is one of the few Fringe shows which pulls in an audience which is predominantly local.

Artistic director Phillip Gandey describes the show as the "biggest party on the Fringe".

The Lady Boy showgirls, who perform a range of musical and cabaret routines, all began life as males.

They dress as women and some undergo feminising procedures such as hormone replacement therapy, breast implants, genital reassignment surgery or Adam's apple reductions.

Gandey said the Lady Boys first came to Edinburgh 13 years ago and did not get great audiences.

He said they were brought back two years later and have been returning to larger audiences ever since.

The show was originally in a circus tent setting but Gandey now sees it as a more "Moulin Rouge experience" cabaret show, with a licensed bar and seating at tables.

Under his direction the show features much more Western pop music.

"The big turning point came four years ago," he said.

"I decided to put the Lady Boys in kilts for the last part of the show, in fact they have their own registered tartan, and we do Scottish numbers such as 500 miles, Runrig's Loch Lomond and, of course, Auld Lang Syne.

Image caption,
The Lady Boys perform a cabaret show featuring pop music

"It has now become ingrained in Scotland's and Edinburgh's culture."

Gandey said the audience was initially dominated by females but he said the percentage of men had risen over the years so it was now about 60/40.

"More than any other Fringe show we do attract a huge local population," he said.

"But it is not just people from Edinburgh. Other Scots are travelling 50 or 60 miles just to see the show."

"I would say we are maybe 75% an Edinburgh audience and 25% a typical Fringe audience."

Gandey said the loyalty of the audience was down to the guarantee of "West End production values and the comfort of a large cabaret venue at Fringe ticket prices".

However not everyone who in lives in Edinburgh is a fan.

The show takes places on the Meadows, a large park in central Edinburgh.

Local campaign group the Friends of the Meadows & Bruntsfield Links has successfully lobbied Edinburgh City Council to restrict the run of the show to three weeks over fears that it was damaging the public park.