Cult British musical trio The Tiger Lillies, known for their unique brand of musical theatre, celebrate their thirtieth anniversary this year. Their distinctive, anarchic performances blend influences from the circus, gypsy spirit, Kurt Weill’s Threepenny Opera and Bertolt Brecht’s Berlin with a smattering of British Music Hall and Vaudeville thrown in.
Stamped with wicked and twisted humour that pushes at the boundaries of taste, like all the best creative originals, The Tiger Lillies are hard to categorise and instantly recognisable for it. Edgar Allan Poe’s Haunted Palace – making its Australian debut at RCC Fringe – is, like its highly acclaimed show Shockheaded Peter, a Tiger Lillies act through and through.
Martyn Jacques, dressed in black and bristling with feathers, plays a devilish and provocative raven to Peter Caulfield’s Poe. In a haunted palace of many rooms, the raven satisfies Poe’s demands for increasing quantities of black “ink”, which should have brought Poe fortune and success, but which only succeeded in driving the writer to the depths of madness, despair and death.
Singing in his trademark virtuosic falsetto, Jacques squawks and screeches his way through the 18 songs he composed for this show.
He’s accompanied by Andrew Stout on bass, theremin and saw, and Jonas Golland on percussion, with the trio providing the musical backdrop to vignettes acted out by Jacques, Caulfield’s sad-faced Poe and Lucy Patrick, who in turn deftly plays the creepy, crazed assistant Doris, Poe’s mother and Poe’s wife.
The show takes inspiration from Poe’s tragic and turbulent life and his macabre stories and poems; fans of Poe will recognise references to The Tell Tale Heart or The Masque of the Red Death.
Vivid projections range from a sinister fun-house of rolling rooms and corridors, to blood-red flowers blossoming out of monochrome. Jacques’ green and red bejewelled accordion glistens against a backdrop of gothic black and white, making this a visually stunning jewel of a performance.
There were some issues with the acoustics in the venue, which at times made Jacque’s lyrics inaudible, but this was not enough to distract from what was an unforgettable and accomplished performance.
Edgar Allan Poe’s Haunted Palace is being presented at Elder Hall at RCC Fringe until March 10. See more Adelaide Fringe reviews and stories here.