Robert Tanitch reviews The Tiger Lillies: Love for Sale at Soho Theatre, London W1
THE TIGER LILLIES have a flair for the macabre, the surreal, the anarchic and the mordant. Their act is modelled on pre-war Berlin cabaret and they have performed in opera houses, rock festivals, circus tents and smelly pubs.
Love for Sale, the latest show, has been commissioned by Opera North Projects. The classic songs of Cole Porter are re-imagined to find the darkness beneath the surface.
I much enjoyed the music and Martyn Jacques’s emphatic, hypnotic falsetto singing. He accompanies himself on accordion, piano and banjolele. His performance is immeasurably enhanced by Adrian Stout’s musicianship on double bass and musical saw.
Jacques, with his painted German expressionistic face and stylized hand movements, is in his “criminal castrato” element with such songs as the raunchy Auntie Mabel, the gallows humour of 25 Minutes To Go (to a hanging), the innuendo of My Heart Belongs to Daddy and the dry wit of Miss Otis Regrets she is unable to lunch today (because she has killed her lover and is about to be hanged.)
The song, which had the most “Berlin cabaret” impact, came in the curtain call when a member of the audience asked Jacques to singI Can’t Pay the Gas Bill, the shocking bad taste joke about the Holocaust: “I can’t pay the gas bill. What am I going to do? Belsen’s costing me a fortune. Dachau’s expensive too. I’m running out of gas…”