Friday, October 31, 2008

Critical Perspective on The Tiger Lillies' Seven Deadly Sins concert by Natalie Meisner

The Tiger Lilies latest show, Seven Deadly Sins at Theatre Junction fuses spine tingling operatic vocals with innovative music and impeccable comic timing in a style that singer and band member Martyn Jacques calls avant-garde cabaret. The trio play seamlessly off one another, likely due to their long careers in the field and their multi-faceted body of work. Not only their instrumental and vocal synchronicity register with the audience, but so too do their facial “asides” and use of physical comedy.

Martyn Jacques appears in bowler hat and demonic white-face. Imagine that Charlie Chaplin and Marilyn Manson had a love child… and you have a reasonable approximation. He plays the accordion skilfully, his body posture and manner evoking left bank Paris. Jacques then ditches his accordion for a couple up tempo ukulele numbers in which he tests the limits of said instrument. Who knew the ukulele could be menacing? The singer, who trained himself as an opera singer while living above a strip joint in Soho, has not only an impressive set of pipes but an uncanny sense of timing as he delivers devastating vocal missiles of profanity and beauty in one breath. He trills and grunts, he berates and bemoans, he harasses and entices. In short he gives an impressive and devilish vocal performance that would be interesting enough in its own right for a musician and yet he is accompanied by two equally theatrical performers.

Adrian Huge provides the heartbeat of the performance with delicate and unusual drum accompaniment that uses not only conventional drums but pots and pans, brushes and toys for surfaces and drum sticks. His unruffled, phlegmatic stage persona adds style to the performance. He looks as if he would keep drumming through a natural disaster. This makes his percussive meltdown during “Banging In The Nails” all the more dramatic. As the frantic tempo of the piece builds he begins to knock over and destroy his drum kit with progressively bigger toy hammers, seemly coming emotionally unglued as he does so: A perfect bit of stage business that creates a delicate balance of wit and humour to counterpoint provocative lyrics that claim responsibility for the methods of torturing Jesus Christ on the cross.

Adrian Stout lankily stretches out over a soulful contra bass and occasionally switches to the ethereal wale of the musical saw that seems eerily like a wordless human voice. One can’t help but hear, in this plaintive instrument the absent voices of the real people, the prostitutes and drug users, the hustlers and street people who provided the inspiration and raw material for these numbers.
The Lilies particular brand of gleeful macabre clearly strikes a chord with youth as their massive international appeal attests to. Their facility for plumbing the depths of human experience to discover small moments of beauty clearly appealed to the young opening night crowd, many of whom wore either gothic street clothes or costumes that gave a nod to the seven deadly sins. The atmosphere in the audience was electric, especially in the moments when the group switched between tender melancholic ballads and thrusting, in your face offensives featuring darkly comic graphic depictions of sexuality and street life.

An especially great choice for All Hallow’s Eve, this show will be appealing year round to anyone with a taste for gallows humour and black comedy. They deliver witty acidic lyrics, innovative music , engaging characters and the theatricality of a total spectacle. You will be entertained, you will be surprised and you might be forced to a belly laugh over a topic that you never thought you could so much as chuckle at. None of this exploration of the taboo and profane is trite, however. On the contrary, the shock tactics and side-show antics; the blood, guts, and gore, are suffused with a wonderful humanity and empathy for the underdog. Paradoxically and skilfully the Tiger Lilies tackle topics that so often provoke a sense of helplessness and disassociation and ask us to feel more, not less.

Dr. Natalie Meisner
Department of English, Mount Royal

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Show Up and Ship Out

Opening Night of The Tiger Lillies' Seven Deadly Sins Concert (Thursday Oct 30th) will mark Theatre Junction's first Ship Bus of the 2008/09 season. Meet us at the Ship & Anchor pub where 30 tickets to the show will be available for $20. Each ticket includes a free drink and transportation to and from Theatre Junction GRAND (bus @ 7pm). Tickets will go on sale at the Ship & Anchor pub at 6pm. First come, first served.