FRINGE PREVIEW – Melody La Rouge (Kerry Hodgkin)

Melody La Rouge - Kiss of the Red Menace

Melody La Rouge - Kiss of the Red Menace

“The idea first started in 2010 when I was filling in for a friend at a cabaret venue in London,” says Kerry Hodgkin. “I filtered in some Kander & Ebb songs – and they got a great primal response from the audience.”

“It awakened something within me,” she says. “A theatricality; a love for no holds barred expression.”

And thus was born Melody La Rouge, Kerry’s cabaret / burlesque alter ego.

“It’s very liberating” she says, “and the songs give me a real adrenaline rush, even in practice. Kander and Ebb’s songs are all very dramatic and over the top; but there’s something relatable in all of their songs.”

The dynamic show tunes of Kander & Ebb require a special kind of vocal performance.

“I’ve been very lucky to work with Anne Marie Speed, who was the vocal coach on Britain’s Got Talent,” says Kerry. “She taught me the Estill technique – including vocal belting – and it’s helped me rediscover my love of musical theatre.”

Melody La Rouge is certainly a theatrical, striking figure, in her scarlet corset and lace-up boots.

“The idea for the costume came quickly,” says Kerry, “and the name soon followed – after a day brainstorming on Facebook!”

But Melody is a relatively recent creation of Kerry’s, who has been a successful singer on the jazz scene for over 10 years.

“Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in London is my second home,” she laughs. “Last year, I first caught a band there – The Ronnie Scott Blues Experience – who were totally inspirational. They’re like a supergroup of the best of British blues and funk: very dynamic and exciting.”

“I had resisted the fact that blues is what I do best,” she continues. “but realised last year that this was a good thing. So I started to rehearse with a new band and also as a duo with a guitarist, focusing more on the blues and soul side of things.”

Fringegoers in August will have a chance to sample both sides of Kerry’s persona this year, with Melody La Rouge’s Kiss Of The Red Menace show at the Greenside venue; and Shades Of Blue at the Jazz Bar.

Kerry Hodgkin - Shades of Blue

Kerry Hodgkin - Shades of Blue

“I absolutely adore Edinburgh,” says Kerry. “I tell all my singing students that they must go; it has an atmosphere which simply can’t be beaten.”

“I first went to the Fringe with a friend after completing my A-levels,” she recalls, “and fell in love with it.”

“About five years ago, I started coming up regularly as a spectator; then in 2009 I started performing, with my Table In The Corner show at the Jazz Bar.”

“I’ve also had the luxury of being able to work with some of the most talented Scottish musicians on the scene,” she says. “Colin Steele’s trumpeting is amazing; and Edinburgh pianist Paul Kirby has just completed a Jazz Masters Degree in New York. And I’ve got a new band for Kiss Of The Red Menace – with two local Edinburgh musicians.”

And how will Kerry cope with her demanding Fringe schedule?

“It will be vocally and physically exhausting,” she admits. “I’ll be doing 16 shows in 11 days. But I am used to using my voice as part of my teaching and singing careers – I’ve been known to play 5 gigs in one weekend before!”

“Though this is the first year I’ve had to take on an assistant,” she laughs. “Normally I’m a control freak and do it all myself, but you can’t do everything!”

And after the Fringe?

“I’ll sleep quite a lot! But then I’ll be going straight back into gigging and I’m hoping to get to the New York Fringe Festival; and perhaps Adelaide too.”

“And I’ll be working on my new blues LP too, taking that out on the road with the new band.”

With an obvious passion for performance and a love for what she does, you’ll have ample opportunity to catch Kerry at the Fringe this year: whether it’s singing her smokily seductive blues numbers, belting out the passionate Kander & Ebb showtunes – or simply hanging out after the shows at the Jazz Bar.

“I really can’t afford to stay in there til 5am every morning this year!” she laughs. “But then, it is my second home in Edinburgh…”

Kiss Of The Red Menace runs from 5-13 Aug at 23:05 at Greenside; Shades of Blue is at the Jazz Bar on 5-7 and 11-14 Aug, times vary.

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