Corrido de la Sangre

HOME

The Tiger Lillies

Director Mark Holthusen

Writer Pedar Bjurman

Music and Lyrics Martyn Jacques

The Tiger Lillies have been delighting and possibly revolting audiences for nearly 30 years. This “anarchic Brechtian street opera trio” are Grammy nominated, world class purveyors of unapologetically deviant and defiant shows. Commissioned by HOME, Manchester, Corrido de la Sangre is a vivid, glorious celebration of the rip roaring circus that is the Mexican Day of the Dead. Ruthless and gruesome no one escapes unscathed as this dark and gleeful trio play their twisted tunes.

Three musicians on a stage within a stage, pasted in garish make up and suitably clad to evoke their long dead characters, this corrido band rises from hell to play again and tell the ghastly tale of their demise. From the opening number it is clear that this is no grotesque parody but is a high calibre, darkly anarchic cabaret.

The band are skilled musicians playing a range of instruments from piano and ukulele – Martyn Jacques to upright bass and musical saw – Adrian Stout and Jonas Galland on a range of drums. Martyn Jacques sings with a laconic and dispassionate falsetto that can be pure and sweet or acid sharp and vitriolic. At times it feels like Dave Vanien from The Damned has met Noel Coward in the catacombs and formed some unholy musical alliance with a mariachi band.

The lyrics of each song drive the narrative along with vivid imagery that is not for the mawkish or easily offended. Orphan is sweetly plaintive and poignant, La Bruja mournful and haunting while Scarface is a shocking and visceral description of the ghastly disfiguring of a young women. I bought the soundtrack and I’m still humming along to the bizarrely upbeat Good Doctor and the haunting Borderland.

Visually it is gorgeous. The staging is intimate, and the combination of projections, shadow puppetry and papercut artwork create a constant feeling of wonderment as reveal after reveal alters the staging like a kaleidoscope and creates a sense of the performance being peeled back through the years like Russian dolls unfolding in size. The backdrop gives a sense of the decaying splendour of old Mexico and the ragged holes suggest the disintegration of cloth like flesh from a corpse. The projection of colours and shapes from fiesta lace and flowers to the gold of icons weeping blood to Mexican skies and flames of hell is visually stunning. It evokes the magical realism of Frida Kahlo but with the scale of Diego Rivera folk art murals. Director Mark Holthusen has created a beautiful visual spectacle that pulsates like a vast beautiful beating heart.

As the good doctor says – Once you are in, you can never get out. Leaving the performance at HOME last night I was tempted to ask for a lock in and for the deadly trio to rise again and sing another corrido.

At HOME 20th April – 5th May

Viva

The Tiger Lillies

Images by Jonathon Keenan

Hot Brown Honey

HOME

Briefs Factory presents Hot Brown Honey 

Six vibrant First Nation women wearing identical shellsuits on a stage dominated by a huge gleaming, pulsating honeycomb hub. Our MC is Busty Beatz  (Kim Bowers) a co-founder of Hot Brown Honey and she is loud and  proud and magnificent towering above everyone astride the honey dome. Below is the other founder, Director and Choreographer Lisa Fa’alafi who I met briefly as I took my seat in the theatre. These women are chatty and welcoming as they stroll  around the aisles before the show. They are upfront and direct, almost immediately the audience is told a collection toward their childcare will be passing through the aisles because as Lisa says The Revolution can not happen without  childcare. 

Suddenly the performance ramps up the energy. I can’t fully hear everything. I’m blinking as the lights flash powerfully on the honeycomb dome. The performers are hi octane and nothing is going to stop them. It’s too loud!! It’s too bright!!! It’s too……DO NOT ADJUST YOUR SET. WAKE UP. GET ON BOARD. ROCK THE BOAT. THIS MAY JUST BE THE TRIP OF YOUR LIFE.

There is zero tolerance of stereotyping as MC Beatz quotes from the 2009 TEDTalk by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie The Danger of a Single Story. There are no single stories here and this is reinforced by a show that defies any genre. This is burlesque, cabaret, song, beatboxing, hip hop, poetry, hula hooping, aerial silks, sermon and comedy. This is an EVENT and like its orchestrators it cannot be pigeonholed.

This is an intelligent, passionate celebration of womankind in all its colours, shapes and creeds of politics, religion and sexuality. There is a strong burlesque influence running through all aspects of this show. This is burlesque as gender politics defying any attempts at body shaming. Women standing proud and celebrating perfect boobs, giant inflatable  boulder boobs, pussies that may or may not have  seen childbirth, giant padded feline pussies, bodies curvy or lean, skin that gleams or has cellulite or skin blemishes. Women using burlesque to own their own bodies using the frequent vivid costume changes to drive the stories. Fa’alafi describes the experience as the decolonisation of our thoughts and inhibitions. The poet and playwright Maya Angelou was also a burlesque dancer in her early years; and it a very powerful tool of expression and liberation.

There are group sequences ramming home the message We Are Not Maids. Shellsuits are shed to reveal cheeky Princess Megan t-shirts then shed again to reveal maid costumes. MC Beatz dons a massive Afro for the anthem Don’t Touch My Hair.  Fa’alafi delights with a reverse striptease parodying the fantasies of bare breasted Polynesian maidens in grass skirts. This is no coy blushing maiden or unskilled island girl. Our Lisa is surrounded by leaves but deftly fashions shoes and bags like a fashion forward icon. The glorious voice of ‘Ofa Fotu rips apart the James Brown anthem It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World while she wears a stifling costume that clearly alludes to a golliwog doll. Elena Wangurra battles the confines of the Australian flag and triumphantly emerges as a superhero in the vivid colours of the Aboriginal flag. The beat box skills of Hope One pound through the speakers while Crystal Stacey spins hoola hoops with the dexterity that most women multi task. Domestic violence is portrayed in a way that is gut wrenchingly shocking. Crystal Stacey performance was my personal highlight as she escaped violent assault by using aerial silks. Her performance was exquisite and horrifying and incredibly poignant. Literally hanging by a thread this was a truly visceral evocation of desperation, determination and resilience. We do this for the Women who cannot speak. We are taught that silence will save us. But we will make noise.

The Speaker of this Hive asks Will you stay the same or rock the boat? The Hot Brown Honey mantra throughout this amazing show is DECOLONISE AND MOISTURISE or as Faalafi  says We want to decolonize the World , one stage at a time. The audience are on their feet dancing. The atmosphere is electric. The Party Manifesto is clear and this is one party you won’t want to miss.

HOME until Saturday 23rd Dec

DUCKIEĀ 

CONTACT

Writer/ Performer – Le Chocolat Gateau

Produced/Developed – In Company Collective

There are moments when I wish I could rewind time with my children and go back to when they were very young. Today was such a day, watching the gorgeous DUCKIE I wished my teenage darlings were ten years younger and there in the audience with me. This show is a wonderfully deft merging of cabaret, children’s theatre, fairy tale reimagining and a big dollop of old Hollywood magic.

Cabaret performer and Opera singer Le Gateau Chocolat takes the much loved tale of The Ugly Duckling by Hans Christian Anderson and goes to the circus to seek out soulmates for this lonely misfit, the runt of the litter. To the delight of the child in all of us, the mischievious performer portrays a duck who cannot quack but belches instead. His lonely duckie can’t quack or dance, he is too small to be a muscleman and too big, too yellow, too tall…… DUCKIE would seem to be a duck who is seriously down on his luck.

The voiceover which speaks to DUCKIE and at times the audience is soothing and reassuring- a bit like having Judy Dench voicing your bedtime story. The rest is simply the gorgeous baritone voice of Le Gateau Chocolat which is like having your senses bathed in warm chocolate fondant. The songs often tweaked to fit the story range from Disney classics through to The Pussycat Dolls Don’t cha and La Cage Aux Folles I am what I am to Cyndi Laupers Girls just want to have fun. 

Visually the set is deceptively simple but with dressing up clothes tucked away and bright umbrellas popping out it holds gems of surprise.  The lighting design is magical and reminds me of the country village circus tours of my childhood. Throughout his costume changes there is always the fluid physicality, warmly, gleaming eyes and glittery lips. This is a performer who is totally at ease with his audience, both young and simply young at heart. It would be hard not to be drawn into DUCKIE’S world and empathise with his plight. 

When the insults come increasingly thick and fast and the voicing of them sounds more and more like children the true dark background to the story shines through. DUCKIE is rendered small, wounded  and vulnerable as he looks out in confusion at a world that will not let him belong. His salvation through a beautifully rendered little mouse is touching and ensures a fairytale happy ending. We shun or ridicule what is “ugly” not because it’s ugly but simply because it is different. DUCKIE delivers a message of acceptance and tolerance that resonates with adults and sews a seed in young children that hopefully blossoms in every new generation. 

CONTACT 24-25 OCTOBER 

BOURGEOIS & MAURICE: HOW TO SAVE THE WORLD WITHOUT REALLY TRYING


HOME
Drag aliens have descended on Theatre 2 at HOME and an audience of humansexuals are there for the anarchic Weimaresque cabaret. These drag aliens are rocking some serious sequins, latex, beehives and lashes. They are also strangely reminiscent of Ana Matronic and Jake Shears of Scissor Sisters being channelled via AbFab Patsy and Julian Clary.  

The performers are the first to receive the HOME  T1 Commission which will result in a creative development project leading to new piece of work in Theatre 1 in Spring 2019.

Georgeouis Bourgeouis (George Herworth) is an acerbic, bitchy, narcissistic cabaret singer who is an armchair activist. Maurice Maurice (Liz Morris) is a deadpan, piano playing nihilist who aspires to become simply gas. Bougeouis & Maurice are full on throughout the performance. They never break character even when talking to their multiple other selves on screen. 

The performance is a riotous blend of wickedly funny songs and sharp observations on our current political landscape. The drag aliens have studied and googled our society and having decided that all the other political isms have failed they suggest adopting their own brand of hedonism.

Subjects such as flawed British values, Brexit, patriarchy and chemsex are covered in unforgettable songs. I drove home humming the classic “everyone’s at a chemsex party except me”- available on Spotify.

This is slick delivery underpinned by layers of carefully conceived detail and precise observations. The rousing anthem was no saccharine song of hope but was an inspired and a perfect way to close a show about saving the world. If cabaret is really the last frontier then what a way to go. 

10/11 October