Last Updated on December 16, 2021
A Victorian Gutter: A Macabre Christmas with The Tiger Lillies at The Southbank Centre
From the makers of the Olivier award-winning Shockheaded Peter comes a Christmas tale like no other; The Tiger Lillies’ take on A Christmas Carol and incorporate their usual post-punk spin to create a whimsical and eccentric performance. Regular fans of the musical trio will not be disappointed with this Christmas penny-dreadful performance, and first-timers will undoubtedly enjoy their entry into the wicked and wonderful world of The Tiger Lillies.
The show felt much more like a concert with a story, rather than a fully expanded theatrical production, but The Tiger Lillies’ enigmatic stage presence and enthralling music more than made up for this. Founder Martyn Jacques resumed his usual role as the narrator, accompanying his eerie falsetto singing with the accordion, piano and ukulele. His melodramatic Brechtian facial expressions make him a hypnotic performer. Adrian Stout brought a light-hearted edge to the role of Scrooge. Deftly weaving between the double bass, electric guitar, theremin, and saw. Joined by Budi Butenop on percussion and as a rather large Tiny Tim, the trio, clad entirely in faux Victorian attire and black and white face paint, strike an imposing silhouette, but one that is entirely balanced by the wit, humour and humanity of the score.
A Victorian Gutter mostly follows the traditional story of a Christmas Carol but The Tiger Lillies add their classic morbid humour, their renowned eccentric music and a poignant social message. Following Jacques’ show inspired by Hans Christian Anderson’s ‘The Little Match Girl’ that explored Copenhagen’s relationship to poverty, he decided to develop a Dickensian production that brought that conversation to London’s streets. Focusing on Scrooge’s greed and malice, the music slyly reckons with contemporary British politics, making many of the numbers both emotional and pointedly bitter.
The trio incorporates many of their usual gothic and gypsy influences into the performance while also adding a jazz beat throughout much of the score. The lament for Jacob Marley played on the musical saw by Stout had a soulful and bluesy quality, fit for the loss of a partner. Which was technically astounding as well as hauntingly touching. Regular listeners of The Tiger Lillies will also notice some fan favourites pop up throughout the production, including a rewrite of Shockheaded Peter’s Bully Boys tailored to A Christmas Carol. Jacques’ songwriting is only surpassed in magnificence by his singing. His voice is as varied and mesmerising as any traditional music hall emcee and is undeniably the highlight of the production.
The Tiger Lillies are undeniably at their best when really pushing the boundaries of theatre and performance. The most successful aspects of the show were the whacky instruments, the fast-paced dancehall numbers, and the more exaggerated elements of the gothic visual language. One of the most notable aspects of the set, designed by Jonny Dixon, was the toy children stuck on the drum kit to represent want and ignorance. Entirely weird, entirely entertaining.
I admit, I have never seen the critically acclaimed Shockheaded Peter on stage, but have spent many an hour blissfully looking through the original director Julian Crouch’s YouTube videos of the production. However, my plus one saw one of their original productions, and not only declared that the music was the best bit about Shockheaded Peter, but that A Victorian Gutter matched the energy of their most notable performance. Anyone who loves a bit of the macabre during the festive season will thoroughly enjoy this production.
The Tiger Lillies’ Christmas Carol: A Victorian Gutter
Tuesday 14th December 2021 – Thursday 30th December 2021
Running Time: 75 Minutes
Southbank Centre’s Purcell Room,
Box Office: 0203 879 9555 (Open from 10am – 2pm Monday to Friday)
Looking for something different? We also recommend Life of Pi at Wyndham’s Theatre