A high operatic note breaks the hush of the theatre in perfect pitch, only to be broken itself by a barrage of crude raspberry noises. The Tiger Lillies are back in London, with a vengeance.
The show they've brought here for a three-week run is called Seven Deadly Sins. Based on the Hieronymus Bosch painting, it's a twisting musical pilgrimage through all the fun things you're not supposed to do if you want to avoid going to Hell, though one can't help but suspect that it may be far too late for the band themselves. It's told through a story charting the wicked descent of the puppets Punch and Jude, with each sin they commit punctuated by a new song from the Tiger Lillies, along with a few from their vaults that those who have followed them through theirdebauched depravity will relish. Even if you've heard their songs before, watching them being performed adds a sumptuous, visual dimension, a cavalcade of theatrics, spontaneity, showmanship and humour that will draw you into their underground world of sin. It will make you feel gleefully evil. And you'll want to see them again.
Seven Deadly Sins is billed as a punk cabaret, probably because "Brechtian-style cabaret with punk lyrics and uncomfortably twisted Gypsy themes played on folk instruments" doesn't look as good on the posters. Basically, if you were on a fairground carousel in Satan's back garden, it's the kind of music you would hear as you go nervously round.
The painted ringleader, Martyn Jacques, writes all of the band's songs, and plays the accordion, ukulele and piano to boot. His tremendous vocal range and powerful operatic voice are peerless, and he uses them to their full extent during the show as his expressiveness takes the audience from the addictive "Heroin and Cocaine" to the infectious "Anger", and from the melancholy of "Life Is Mean" to the guilty laughter provoked by "Kick a Baby".
Adrian Huge on drums and percussion, and Adrian Stout on contra bass, musical saw and theremin, both weave in their own prolific talents to complete the itinerant musical trio, while the vaudevillian puppeteer Nathan Evans and the fire-eating burlesque dancer Ophelia Bitz provide links between the songs.
The result is a show that's unique, unapologetically offensive, raucously funny and full of music that you'll immediately want to inflict on all your friends and family, whether they like it or not. And, of course, the Tiger Lillies will always be happy to give you an excuse to sin.
To 26 Apr (08704 296 883)
Belinda Wilson, Airline supervisor, London
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