Tiger Lillies in Brighton

Where better than Brighton, then, to see the Brechtian cabaret act Tiger Lillies, a trio whose material.......knows few, if any, boundaries.

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The Independent

By James McNair
Published: 30 October 2007


a celebrated drawer of saucy postcards, Donald McGill seemed to sense

that there is something inherently bawdy about British seaside towns.

Where better than Brighton, then, to see the Brechtian cabaret act

Tiger Lillies, a trio whose material ? much more graphic than McGill's

? knows few, if any, boundaries. Prostitution, gonorrhoea, cancer,

matricide and incontinence ? these are just some of the subjects that

their frontman, Martyn Jacques, explores. If it festers, is unlawful,

makes people uneasy or was seen by the butler, Jacques has addressed it.

Switching between piano and accordion, Jacques sings from behind grease

paint in a warbling falsetto that makes his band's music more

unnerving. His able foils are Adrian Huge (drums and percussion) and

Adrian Stout (double bass). As "Freak Show" underlines, the Lillies'

songs house a motley crew of outsiders, libertines, murderers and

schizophrenics. Their lives are closely scrutinised by the band, but

rarely judged. The Lillies' touchstones include Brecht and Weill's The

Threepenny Opera, circus music, klezmer, gypsy jazz and Monteverdi's

madrigals, all blended to create wonderful, colourful music with

sublime dynamics.

The trio's sense of humour is unremittingly

black. On "Kick a Baby", Jacques' falsetto and half parlando approach

make him sound like Dame Edna Everage, but this is darker stuff,

possums: Jacques' portrayal of a man whose greatest joy is to boot

infants down staircases elicits uneasy laughter.

In 2004, the

Tiger Lillies released Punch and Judy, and Jacques' persona recalls the

violent and anarchic Mr Punch, who would surely approve of the

characters in songs such as "Hardest Bastard" and "Banging in the

Nails", folks who do exactly as they please, and to hell with the


Still, to paraphrase Kenny Everett, it's all

done in the best possible bad taste. And whatever Mary Whitehouse would

have made of tonight's performance of "Masturbating Jimmy", replete

with graphic sound effects, there's no denying that the Tiger Lillies'

theatre of the absurd can be tender and beautiful as well as sordid.