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.
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
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.