The Gorey End Live at the Lyric 2003

THE GOREY END: A review of The Tiger Lillies's 'The Gorey End' performed live at London's Lyric Hammersmith Theatre in May 2003 by Lloyd Ellis

In 1999 The Tiger Lillies received a letter from Edward Gorey

explaining that he'd been given a copy of the CD to their hit stage

show Shockheaded Peter and would love to collaborate. Sadly Gorey died

before he could hear the songs that Martin Jacques wrote. The

combination was perfect. Shockheaded Peter had adapted the dark

cautionary tales of Heinrich Hoffmann into glorious songs of children

dying in funny and macabre situations, much like The Gashlycrumb Tinies

in fact. The thirteen songs that emerged from the union are deliciously

dark and twisted tales based on unpublished Gorey stories.

The Lyric Hammersmith is a fitting venue for this show. It's where

Shockheaded Peter was born and has a nicely-aged decadence in the decor

which can take you into a toy theatre of the imagination. Here it was

used as it often is as a musical venue to great effect. The audience

sitting with fixed attention on the stage as Julian Bleach , narrator

from Shockheaded Peter , creeped on stage carrying a shabby black

umbrella brilliantly portraying the character of Death from the cover

of The Gashlycrumb Tinies , to introduce the proceedings, firstly by

reading that important letter from 1999 and then presenting the titles

of each song or reading by revealing title cards at the side of the

stage. Jacques' falsetto voice hauntingly and beautifully rendered

Gorey's new tales bringing them to life with humour and pathos. The

Tiger Lillies also consists of percussionist Adrian Huge and double

bass player Adrian Stout who use inventive means to create strange and

unexpected noises. The Kronos Quartet gave a chamber music feel that

evoked Gorey's fascination with upper class stately homes.

Songs that stood out were The Learned Pig , a sad tale of a pig who

learns how to read only to get put in a traveling show and get

run-over, and The Besotted Mother in which a baby is dressed up in a

cute outfit made of bunny-fur and soon savaged by a pack of angry

dogs... Typically dark, typically Gorey. Between songs we were treated

to readings of classic Gorey books by Bleach and actors Alan Rickman

,Imogen Claire and Rosalind Knight , as well as a sweet little girl

called Josie Hall who read The Gashlycrumb Tinies . Rickman was spot on

with his subtle reading of The Chinese Obelisks , and The Curious Sofa

had everyone in stitches. Near the end they read endings to stories

that Gorey had written without writing the rest: "I forgive you all, he

said, and died." as a post-script. The Tiger Lillies also performed, as

an encore, their song Flying Robert from Shockheaded Peter .

The night was enjoyed by everyone, I'm sure. Bleach was particularly

hilarious as the grim MC managing to maintain a fixed-grin on his white

skull of a face throughout the whole evening. It's a shame that Gorey

never heard these songs because he would have loved them. The CD works

extremely well as a record of the show and in its own right. Half-way

through it you might wonder why you are listening to a voice screaming

"Gin! Gin! Gin!" but you wipe tears from your eyes (not just from

laughing or crying) but from emotions that the music stirs from some

dark place in your soul, and you realise that The Tiger Lillies have

something very special, and like Gorey they connect with our everyday

lives and gently mocking our mores and taboos about death and the

bizarre. Hopefully the ensemble will perform this again, in the

meantime I recommend The Gorey End on CD as soon as you can, and be


Lloyd Ellis ,
May 17, 2003