The TO&ST judges have decided on their top five cabaret shows. Who made the cut?

Magician Ben Hart is one of the TO&ST 2013 nominees.

Magician Ben Hart is one of the TO&ST 2013 nominees.

Did you know that there are 32 awards up for grabs at this year’s ‎Edinburgh Fringe‬ Festival spread out across cabaret and the other seven official categories? And that only one of those is dedicated to cabaret? You do now.

This summer’s outing for the Time Out and Soho Theatre (TO&ST) award sees some changes from last year. The panel has broadened out to include a wider perspective with last year’s triumvirate of Time Out London cabaret editor Ben Walters, Soho Theatre comedy and cabaret producer Steve Lock and Glasgow-based cabaret producer and performer Frodo McDaniel joined by two journalists from The Scotsman: chief comedy reviewer Kate Copstick and cabaret reviewer Claire Smith. This is what the 2013 shortlist looks like:

Ben Hart: The Outsider
“Eye-boggling dexterity and cheeky charisma from the young illusionist.”

Briefs: The Second Coming
“The Brisbane troupe return with a gloriously perverted circus spectacle.”

Die Roten Punkte: Kunst Rock (Art Rock)
“A strangely lovely show from the head-banging comic sibling rockers.”

Lynn Ruth Miller: Granny’s Gone Wild
“Wonderfully entertaining hour from the Fringe’s favourite octogenarian.”

Twonkeys Blue Cadabra
“The latest dispatch from Paul Vickers’s uniquely bizarro world of wonder.”

Now that the shortlisting is done, the judges will be joined by Roundhouse circus producer Leila Jones to decide on who ultimately walks away with the TO&ST Award 2013. The winning act can look forward to being offered a run at Soho Theatre and a feature about their show in Time Out London.

The list certainly has breadth seeing as it covers comedy, circus, burlesque, boylesque, music and magic. Quite how Soho Theatre – who normally have a programme of comedy, theatre, cabaret and the occasional opera – would host a circus production like Briefs could pose a logistical conundrum. Certain elements of that show may need to be curtailed given the physical limits of the Dean Street venue’s stages, for example the finale which sees Mark Winmill cavorting in a giant champagne glass while dangling from a trapeze.

Briefs: The Second Coming are on the shortlist but would their show fit into the Soho Theatre?

Briefs: The Second Coming are on the shortlist but would their show fit into the Soho Theatre?

One man who may be happier with the range of this year’s finalists is gentleman juggler Mat Ricardo. One of the elder statesmen of the London cabaret scene, he took to his blog last year to lambast the inaugural shortlist. He wrote that “the TOAST award, which was supposed to recognise and celebrate cabaret work announced it’s shortlist and revealed itself to be, with the notable exception of the wonderful Piff [the Magic Dragon], a celebration of people who sing dark and/or sexy songs. It’s very depressing to me that the genre of cabaret is increasingly redefined this way…but singers are just a thin sliver of the wide variety of performance styles that genuinely make-up the cabaret world. It would have been nice for the shortlist to be a little more reflective of the true nature of the cabaret scene.

Elsewhere, other cabaret acts may soon have something new for the mantelpiece. Scottee has been nominated for a Total Theatre award in the “Innovation, Experimentation & Playing with Form” category while a number of circus acts including CircaCrying Out Loud and No Fit State Circus are in the running for Total Theatre’s “Physical/Visual Theatre” prize.

The TO&ST winner will be announced at the end of a showcase of the nominated acts to be held at Assembly Checkpoint at midnight this Wednesday. The event, hosted by McDaniel, is presented by Time Out Live and Soho Theatre, and is free and non-ticketed.

The latest information on the TO&ST award can be seen on their Twitter feed. For an alternative view on the Edinburgh Fringe’s top cabaret acts, see our round-up here.

Photo credit:  Prattarazzi (Ben Hart), Sean Young (Briefs: The Second Coming),