The Tiger Lillies, Lulu – a murder ballad at the Spiegeltent, Bristol

THE audience at the Spiegeltent, in Bristol for the month up to Christmas, may have been the first to hear the Tiger Lillies’ new commission from Opera North, Lulu – a Murder Ballad, on 1st December.

Loosely based on Wedekind’s Earth Spirit and Pandora’s Box, it is 20 songs and interludes charting the life and gory death of the prostitute.

It will be premiered with Opera North in late January, when dancer Laura Caldow will join the trio for live performances of this “uncompromising musical and visual melodrama enhanced by large-scale virtual sets that create an immersive and richly atmospheric environment.”

The mirrored and mysterious spiegeltent is the perfect setting for Martyn Jacques and his cohorts. You can watch the performers not only on stage but at various angles in the faceted glass around you, listening to Jacques’s anguished, powerful, insidious and mocking falsetto singing songs of lust, grime and violence.

There was no advertisement that this would be a performance of Lulu, and it was too much for a few of Sunday’s Bristol audience. Among those who stayed, some seemed to think it was an aphrodisiac celebration of sexual domination, greeted with a deal of whooping and cheering

But there’s no turn-on in this timeless, chilling account of a father who pimps his school-age children, sets them up in prostitution and marries his favourite daughter to an impotent waster. The cycle follows her round Europe and back to the London of Jack the Ripper.

Many of the songs will go on to be Tiger Lillies classics, though the second half probably needs some work before it opens in Leeds.

This is anarchist cabaret at its zenith, and over the years the band has distilled its menacing, entertaining songs accompanied by percussion, bass, Theramin, piano and accordion with the sleaze of the Balkans, the verve of Paris and the extra special ingredient that is exclusively the Tiger Lillies.



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