EdFringe 2023 Review: Bailey J Mills – Unfiltered + Scummy ★★★★

“Bailey J Mills: Unfiltered + Scummy is an undeniable delight. Delivering high-energy performances and absurdist comic spectacle, Bailey delivers a night of high-camp comic ecstasy. This is wild, punky and unpredictable drag at its finest.”

Drag sensation Bailey J Mills has gone on to cultivate their own batch of eccentric characters, deliver outrageous throwbacks to 2010s hun culture, and even created content with Eurovision Goddess Loreen. Now the performer brings their punky, unclassifiable brand of high camp drag and comedy to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe for two nights in Bailey J Mills: Unfiltered + Scummy.

Taking stage in the Gilded Balloon’s Teviot Debating Hall, Bailey J Mills presents a mix of video sketches, live music, and improvised comedy. The hour long show is set to be fleshed out further into a two hour production later in the year.

There is something delightfully refreshing about Bailey J Mills’ drag. Not obsessed with polish, exuberant gowns or catchphrases, it’s wild, unpredictable and quite frankly, much sharper than many of the other drag events taking place at this year’s Festival. There are undoubted influences of the work of John Waters and his muse Divine in the provocative, absurdist characters of Bailey from a sinister Blind Date contestant to a rough and ready troublemaker/aspiring-criminal.

On their entry, the performer shares they have been mistaken for both Denise Welch and Chrissy Rock, and its quite an astute observation. Bailey’s distinct style and original approach to their looks ensures they are always keeping us on the edge of our seats when a costume change is on the horizon. The star belts out a vocally impressive take on Junior Senior’s 2002 banger Move Your Feet launching the show with a high-energy start. Immersing themself down the aisles, Bailey throws their pants into the audience encouraging the recipient to sniff – it’s like a twisted take on the bridal flower arrangement being caught – vulgar, but wickedly entertaining.

The first of several video sketches played throughout the night is debuted. A ne’er-do-well teen dressed in a Harley Quinn style garb causes trouble around her estate, preparing to showcase her criminal antics to a documentary team. Complete with false teeth and stretched skimpy outfit, Bailey showcase a brilliant comic finesse and characterisation in the video which plays out like an absurdist take on every Channel 4 documentary you have seen. Further video sketches include a riverdancing ghost, a local business owner’s willy wax melts, a BBB news expose into a woman’s deceased horse (think Dawn the Jockey but with more of a salacious scandal), an unhinged Come Dine With Me and a hilarious High School Musical sequel.

There is a real avant-garde edge, madcap edge to these video sketches. Outlandish humour, crude gags, and absurdist takes on very British concepts, all help Bailey craft their niche impeccably well. There’s added humour in the fact that these videos are often filmed with the performer’s friends in and around their the local residential area. The High School Musical and Come Dine With Me sketches gain even more hilarity with the idea of neighbours peering out their windows watching the events unfold.

The punky, rebellious originality continues on stage with the Riverdance routine brought to life with some fake-leg puppet work, whilst the jockey’s story is expanded with the show’s sole lip-sync to Adele’s While We Were Young. A real highlight comes in a twisted spin on Blind Date, where willing audience members have the chance to date Bailey’s quirky librarian character – complete with pensioner bob hairstyle, Michael Myers’ mask, and bouncing fake breasts. These colourful numbers brilliantly showcase Bailey’s talent and individuality, feeding off a very game, enthusiastic response from the crowd. A vibrant performance of Cher’s Believe showcases Bailey’s impressive control over the audience, whilst bringing the show to high-energy finale.

As the show moves into its extended version, less reliance on video content and more live performance would benefit. Whilst video sketches are a large part of the star’s repertoire, embracing some of these characters on stage would be exciting. Bailey’s viral moments, including their take on Tulisa’s Young, their Cheryl Fight for This Love number, and Frankie Bridge sketches would all transfer well into the live setting.

Bailey J Mills: Unfiltered + Scummy is an undeniable delight. Delivering high-energy performances and absurdist comic spectacle, Bailey delivers a night of high-camp comic ecstasy. This is wild, punky and unpredictable drag at its finest.

Bailey J Mills: Unfiltered + Scummy runs August 10th and 11th at the Edinburgh Fringe. Get tickets here.

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