Songs from Shockheaded Peter and Other Gory Verses

Songs from Shockheaded Peter and Other Gory VersesSongs from Shockheaded Peter and Other Gory Verses is a night for Tiger Lillies fans. As a ‘best of’ with favourite moments from the last 20 years, it was adored by the fans, but seemed to miss the Tiger Lillies new comers.

One of the side effects of popularity and success is playing in bigger venues. The Brechtian-punk trio have played theatres all over the world, but until now, Melbourne has only had the privilege of intimate venues. Although it was lovely to see the trio framed in a proscenium with pretty lights and lots of arty fog, the gap between stage and audience was difficult to break in the Playhouse and it’s just wrong to watch this group without a drink in hand.

This distance wasn’t for lack of trying on the stage, but it was strange to watch them getting sniggers instead of guffaws and almost disturbing to sit amongst an audience who didn’t all think that they are wonderful. I’ve seen The Tiger Lillies a few times and this was the first time I’ve ever felt that the audience weren’t with them and in on the joke.

The active alienation of Martyn Jacques’ white faced, falsetto-singing character is from Brecht. We need the slight distance to hear what he is saying and empathise with the characters he is singing about, but this night didn’t have the enough moments when audience and performers connected.

The ongoing issues with the sound mix didn’t help. The music sounded rich and inviting, but the vocals and the lyrics were often lost. There were too many times when the only people laughing were fans predicting the joke. When the extremity and irony of their lyrics are missing, the songs come across as smutty and obvious. Without the clear context of the complete lyrics, a song like “Kick a Baby” makes no sense and is far more disturbing than it really is. In ‘Lust’ the only clear words were ‘cock’ and ’tit’, which turned painfully black song about nothing ever being good enough into an uncomfortable cross between an episode of ‘Are You Being Served’ and ‘Deadwood’.

The show settled after the interval, but the most wonderful moments of the night were reserved for the encore when it was Martyn, Adrian and Adrian with their fans. It’s no secret that I am fan (if I could choose to one last performance in my life it would be a toss up between Einstein on the Beach or a few hours of The Tiger Lillies) – so I loved every moment of the evening, but Songs from Shockheaded Peter and Other Gory Verses lacked the spark and the connection that make this group one of the most original cabaret performances around.

Season closed, but touring.

Anne-Marie Peard

Anne-Marie spent many years working with amazing artists at arts festivals all over Australia. She's been a freelance arts writer for the last 10 years and teaches journalism at Monash University.

Anne-Marie Peard

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