Taxidermy Musical Has Audience In Stitches

By Londonist Last edited 110 months ago

Last Updated 05 March 2015

Taxidermy Musical Has Audience In Stitches ★★★★☆ 4

Charlie Tuesday Gates and a furry protégé.

Londonist Rating: ★★★★☆

If death was always this funny, there’d be stand-up during funeral processions and undertakers would be the jolliest folks in town. A multi-layered mockery, Sing For Your Life takes the Saturday night TV talent show, skins it, salts it and stitches it back together again.

A cast of handmade animal puppets — courtesy of writer-performer Charlie Tuesday Gates's DIY taxidermy techniques — cover pop classics from Nancy Sinatra and Britney Spears, as well as some killer originals. In true X Factor form, the members of this morbid musical menagerie have their time to shine… and to share their sob story.

Despite having an all-dead cast — and being staged in one of the Vault’s gloomy underground caverns — the mood is upbeat. A barbershop quartet of squirrels squabble, a five-piece string band perform twisted nursery rhymes, and the villain’s downfall is accompanied by theatrical cackling. Puppeteer performances are strong — all hyperbole and harmonies.

Given that Gates likes splicing cute critters open, the lyrics are surprisingly animal-friendly, providing a voice to characters such as the under-walked and under-loved ‘underdog’, and roadkill victim scat-splat-cat, who 'shoop-be-do-wop-bops' her way through the tale of her untimely tragedy.

After learning of the brutality in our meat supply chain, Gates went vegan. Each of our stars tonight was dead when she met them, but through her, is given a new lease of life. Our pooch protagonist this evening made his stage debut after Gates put an advert on Gumtree offering a collection service to bereaved pet owners.

Sing For Your Life is not a family show — in fact it’s absolutely filthy. There are swear words and sexy bits aplenty. But Gates’s whimsical wit is striking: she playfully romps through cutting issues from the badger cull to fashion’s vicious love of fur, holding a mirror to the pantomime of popular culture. A ‘slinky mink’, for example, peels off her coat in a saucy striptease, claiming she’d “rather be naked than wear fur”. It’s unsettling and queasy, yet downright hilarious.

A mass of contradictions, Sing For Your Life is incongruously clever. A sordid, sardonic Sesame Street.

By Kathleen Prior

Sing For Your Life is on at Vault until 8 March. Tickets £16.50. Londonist saw this show on a complimentary ticket.