The Tiger Lillies: Love for Sale at Soho Theatre
With The Threepenny Opera currently cutting it up in London, audiences can get an extra dose of Brechtian humour over at the Soho Theatre, with cult heroes The Tiger Lillies ready to lure you into their ghastly den.
Dressed like children of Mack the Knife and Cabaret’s Emcee, the band (Martin Jacques and Adrian Stout) and their carnival of instruments – including the musical saw, the Theremin and a makeshift ukulele – turn their wicked eye to the oeuvre of Cole Porter, a man who had a preternatural talent for writing songs that became standards. Yet The Tiger Lillies don’t just rearrange some of the American’s most famous ditties, they turn them inside out, taking Porter’s love songs and pumping them full of pimps, prostitutes and addicts.
Cast under a moon of shifting scenes and stars constructed of bare bulbs, the set lurches between haunting melancholy, with opener Love for Sale, and winking macabre, present in a terrifying version of Let’s Do It, Let’s Fall in Love. There are songs that fit so seamlessly into the band’s shtick that it’s hard to believe that they were Porter tunes in the first place: Miss Otis Regrets oozes a murderous charm that syncs beautifully with The Tiger Lillies’ ghoulish visage, while the innuendo-laden My Heart Belongs to Daddy sees the father-worship at the heart of the song grow even more creepy than it must have seemed back in the 1930s.
Sprinkled throughout are some of The Tiger Lillies’ gruesome classics, including Gin and Bully Boys. It is a testament to the band’s talent, and the depth of their reinvention, that there aren’t any visible cracks between their own work and that of Porter’s. The pair produce a dual layering of nostalgia, first for the romance of Porter’s age and then for the illicit thrill of those stages found in pre-war Berlin basements, combining the two for a deliciously dark descent into madness.
The Tiger Lillies: Love For Sale is on at Soho Theatre from 14th until 30th July 2016, for further information or to book visit here.
Watch a live performance of Gin here: