Edinburgh Festival Fringe cabaret review: Tales from a Cabaret, reviewed by The Scotsman’s Ben Walters.
When setting out their stall for this show, the Creative Martyrs promise “no nudity or swearing, just stories and songs”. But what stories and songs. The Martyrs have been performing their jaunty brand of absurdist political satire for more than a century now (according to them, anyway; and if not that long, it’s certainly been a while). This show debuted in 2010 but it packs more of a wallop than ever.
Comported in frayed suits, bowlers, whiteface make-up and downcast eyes, the duo make for a shabby-chic stage presence, forlorn and impish by turns – somewhere between Laurel and Hardy and Vladimir and Estragon from Waiting for Godot. Accompanying themselves on cello, ukulele and kazoo, they weave a tale of creativity and oppression in a half-imagined world.
The central figures in their story are two performers, a dancer clad in black feathers and a death-defying escapologist – cabaret stars at the top of their game. But things start to change around them. A bit more official information is gathered here, a little more regulation imposed there, and doing things differently gets harder and harder…
The tunes strum, thrum and wheedle, making a stirringly evocative backdrop to these events while remaining solidly grounded in a cabaret mode. And the Martyrs are highly adept at implicating the audience – not asking for active participation but reminding us that we are not just spectators but witnesses too, and perhaps even actors. For while the show evokes the fate of underground culture during some of history’s darkest periods, its real power lies in the nagging sense that such a process could be happening today. It’s a reminder that not all obscenities involve nudity or swearing. The worst of them come dressed in smart clothing, speaking politely.
Voodoo Rooms (Venue 68) until 30 August / listings
Main image: John McInnes
Published in The Scotsman on 19 August 2015
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