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Tales from a Cabaret

Tuesday, 7 September, 2010

Existential Cabaret

Edinburgh 10 – Fingers Piano Bar – 7-28 August­­ 2010 – 21.00 (0:50)

The Creative Martyrs, a white-faced duo intent on reliving the glory days of cabaret, are in fine sinister form throughout this rollercoaster ride through the world of mime, music, storytelling and high-concept japery.  The Tales from the Cabaret that they tell are a direct riposte to the X-Factor generation intent on getting their kicks from the latest heavily marketed shiny bauble in the television listings.

An introductory song establishes their style as “existential cabaret” and is swiftly followed by a song about the private life of hats “running about at night”.  Making anthropomorphic head-gear sound threatening with a whispered lyric, the entertainers paint a picture of the seedy underbelly of society accompanied by cello, ukulele and kazoo.

The pair then introduce a few of the stars of the cabaret of their shadowy past, dancers, acrobats, mimes and “Esmerelda, the bearded lady – six foot ten and a little bit shady”. They proceed to narrow their gaze onto two of these singular characters –  namely the Glittering Raven, a fantasical, almost supernatural dancer, and Darievo, an unparalleled escape artist – telling vignettes from their lives throughout their time on stage.  Their tales are told with increasing sadness as the world moves on and tastes change, opening the way for more commercialised acts and spurning the fascinating freaks for mere physical beauty.  As the Raven and Darievo slip ever further down the bill they are faced with a stark choice – change or be forgotten.  The homogenation of entertainment is completed by the end of the show where to garner success all one must be is a “comedian telling jokes about a certain type”.

Venturing into the audience, the pair cajol and hector while blaming the world at large for the dumbing down of culture and the paucity of ambition in the modern age.

The performance is bookended by a ritualistic secret knock segment which is as ambitious as it is simple, drawing all into their secret world and making the whole show seem like a secret club to which only the luckiest few have been invited.  This feeling of exclusivity is maintained for much of the first half, before being quickly whipped away as a character simply known as the ‘administrative photocopier’ starts picking at onlookers’ personal privacy to devastating effect.  The fourth wall is destroyed as the performers forsake their beloved entertainers and shine a critical light into the characters in the audience.

Both entertainers, resplendent in dark suits, bowler hats and pansticked faces, are multi-talented individuals, equally comfortable on a number of instruments and experts at using mime and body-language to communicate their frustration at the new and elation at the old.  The two work together like a Hammer Horror version of Laurel and Hardy, Gustav Martyr’s clipped Eastern European accent and  Jacob Martyr’s eloquent English tones combining to capture their chosen bygone era perfectly.

It’s a perfectly structured performance which communicates the Creative Martyr’s tales in a complex style, but never sinks into solipsism or sacrifices entertainment for the sake of their grand ambition.

Cast Credits: Gustav MartyrJacob Martyr.

Company Credits: Writers – Gustav Maryr and Jacob Martyr.  Company – The Creative Martyrs.  Promotor – PBH Free Fringe.

(c) David Hepburn 2010

Reviewed Friday 26 August

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