A Brecht of fresh air

Of all the events scheduled by Jonathan could be argued none was more tantalising than to see ...Brechtian punk cabaret combo The Tiger Lillies

By ALAN CHADWICK - Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Of all the events scheduled by Jonathan Mills in his first year as

director of the International Festival, it could be argued none was

more tantalising and eyebrow-raising than to see cult castrato Martyn

Jacques and his accordion-driven Brechtian punk cabaret combo The Tiger

Lillies invited to take part in the music programme. In what will no

doubt be one of the talking points of the year, for one night only the

Fringe faves will be on hand to offer up their own weird and wonderful

take on Monteverdi.

'Jonathan approached us and asked if we'd be interested in doing

something on Monteverdi and I was like, who? Mantovani. My dad has all

his records,' says Jacques mischievously down the line from Stockholm,

where the band are touring prior to flying to Edinburgh.

'I didn't have a clue who Monteverdi was but Jonathan said he was a

very subversive and bad man who used to sing obscene lyrics to the Pope

and he reckoned we were the 21st century equivalent. I didn't believe a

word of it, of course, but he asked if we'd like to perform and I just

thought, why not.'

Given The Tiger Lillies' penchant for making baroque'n'roll that

features prostitutes, pimps, mental illness and all sorts of bad

language, Mills' recruitment of them is undoubtedly an audacious move

aimed at shaking up the programme. It will either convert the

traditionally staid elderly concert-going Festival public to the

theatrical merry pranksters' cause, or have them running for the exits

in fear and loathing at being subjected to the sight of such a

devilishly unique force.

As a band, The Tiger Lillies are pitched somewhere between Kurt Weill,

Tom Waits and the circus coming to town (if the town you live in

happens to be Twin Peaks). Their theatre work includes international

hit Shockheaded Peter and they are as capable of the most beautiful

poetry as they are shocking brutality: two sides of their punk cabaret

coin that should serve them well as they set out to deliver their loose

interpretation of Monteverdi's Love And War, accompanied by Concerto


And when I say loose interpretation, I mean just that.

'I got sent a copy of Love And War and listened to it for about 10

minutes and thought there's no way I'm going to be able to do this,'

says Jacques.

'So I just wrote a bunch of Tiger Lillies songs loosely based on those

themes. I've beefed up the lyrics ? ?rifle butts up the arse? ? that

sort of thing, and made it quite punchy and unpleasant with, I have to

say, enthusiastic encouragement from Jonathan.' Other members of The

Tiger Lillies fanclub include such diverse individuals as Marilyn

Manson and The Simpsons creator Matt Groening. Curiously, their biggest

market is Greece. 'They love us there. They have us on daytime TV a

lot; sort of The Tiger Lillies do Greek Tiswas.'

They recorded Love And War in a small basement studio in Soho, and CDs will be available on the night.

'We've added some harpsichord flourishes, which I guess makes it

vaguely Monteverdi-ish,' he says. 'Though you should have seen the look

on the bloke's face who was hiring the harpsichord out as we lowered it

into the studio through this tiny hatch.'

One of the biggest pluses about taking part in the International

Festival for Jacques and co is that they're sure to get paid. 'We

played the Fringe a few years ago and the venue went bust. We ended up

20 grand out of pocket.'

One drawback this year, however, is the fact that neo-burlesque is all

the rage and that Jacques will no longer stand out from the crowd.

'I first used the expression ?Brechtian punk cabaret? 19 years ago and

now the Spiegeltent is full of Brechtian punk cabaret bands. They're

kind of our children in a way, and children never like their parents

very much, so maybe it's for the best if we keep away from them and

play the International Festival!'

A Tribute (Of Sorts) To Monteverdi, Sat, Usher Hall, 8pm.