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James Wilson-Taylor: Ginger is the New Black, Edinburgh Preview

| Comedy, Festivals, Music | 28/07/2016

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In our second Edinburgh Fringe preview, Ian Cater speaks to James Wilson-Taylor about his new show, Ginger is the New Black, being performed daily at Underbelly on Cowgate.

In the US, the depressingly regular mistreatment of African Americans has spawned the creation of the Black Lives Matter movement, harnessing protest through large demonstrations and worldwide solidarity on Twitter.  Back on this side of the pond, another minority continues to face daily prejudice and James Wilson-Taylor wants to do something about it.

Not through marches.  Not by lobbying.  Not even via a catchy hashtag.  Instead, Wilson-Taylor seeks to protect his fellow redheads with the skills he learned on a masters’ degree in musical theatre.  Following last year’s successful run of Bat-Fan – an hour-long audition to replace Ben Affleck as the Caped Crusader, showcasing Wilson-Taylor’s acting, musical and comedy talents – he returns to the Fringe with Ginger is the New Black.

unspecifiedThe show is packed with homages to ginger icons.  There’s a song in the style of Ed Sheeran, an attempt to rebrand Ron Weasley as a sex symbol, and a firm rebuttal of historic accusations that Wilson-Taylor’s pasty skin means he’s a vampire.  Plus plenty more besides.

“What it means to be ginger in 2016 is the kick-off point,” he says, “but we cover lots of other things.  Expect plenty of pop culture references in particular, because that’s what I know most about.”

That much is true, based on the content of Bat-Fan and his first show, I Need a Doctor – The Whosical.  But Ginger is the New Black represents a change in tack, opening broader avenues than mere comic book culture.

While it’s firmly tongue-in-cheek and designed to entertain, not to effect change, Wilson-Taylor broaches more meaningful subject-matter that begs the question: is there really an anti-ginger agenda in 2016?

Less so – it seems – for women, with the likes of Florence Welch, Sophie Turner and Emma Stone all doing very well for themselves, thanks very much.  But for men?  Well, there’s Prince Harry, but he’s essentially an eternal bridesmaid with as much chance of wearing the crown as Hodor.  Homeland’s Damien Lewis?  Yes, but remember what happened to Brody in the end.  Any other really high-profile ginger men out there?  Erm, Donald Trump … but what the actual f*ck is Donald Trump?  Maybe Wilson-Taylor does have a point.

“This is a comedy show,” he reassures me, “but lots of stereotypes still pervade.  That became clear when I announced the show’s title on Facebook and got a really angry comment attacking me and my kind.  So that provides a good platform to try to debunk some myths about gingers.  It’s slightly ranty at times, but hopefully in a really fun way.”

In common with Wilson-Taylor’s other shows, the set is littered with entertaining songs and chummy humour, and his charisma and positivity are likely to play well with the Edinburgh crowd.  As will the fact that, despite his Northern twang, Wilson-Taylor grew up in Old Smokey and, unlike most of his peers, will keep relatively fresh by staying with his parents throughout August.  I say “relatively”, because he still plans to catch up with fellow performers and old school friends, armed with local knowledge of the best bars and locations of secret burger vans at 2am.

For someone who has grown up with the Fringe, Wilson-Taylor approaches it with less trepidation than most.  “I’m just really looking forward to running the show now,” he says.  “The best thing about Edinburgh as a performer is that you get the chance to do your show every single night for three weeks.  There’s no way you’re not going to come out the other side a better performer.”

James is performing ‘Ginger is the New Black’ at 17.00 between 4th and 28th August at Underbelly on Cowgate.  For tickets, head to Underbelly’s official website.

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