The Tiger Lillies Circus

Review in Issue 15-3 | Autumn 2003

‘The surreal and twisted songs of the Tiger Lillies, combined with the best of European Circus’ as the brochure stated, promised much, especially given the success of Shockheaded Peter.

However, what we get is pretty much a series of songs interrupted by six or seven circus acts, performed against a simple but changing backdrop. Sometimes the acts illustrate and reflect the content of the songs, but in general there is no sense of the organic and coherent whole which is circus.

Once I accepted that, I enjoyed it very much. The Tiger Lillies are simultaneously charming and threatening, and Martyn Jacques’ voice is genuinely eerie. The world of their songs is banal and yet utterly extraordinary, in which death and murder exist side by side with the everyday. Illustrating the songs with the circus acts does work, and the range and skill of the acts, from silks to surreal magic is good, although Buba the juggler appeared to have stepped from another, less contemporary tradition entirely, begging the question: was this meant to be ironical?

Therein lies the problem, for the performance is never really sure of its ground, and whilst it is entertaining, it seems to have been hastily flung together. But perhaps I’m being too picky. For the encore, Martyn Jacques told us, in his extraordinary countertenor, that it didn’t matter how much of a failure our lives had been, because we’d soon be dead!

Presenting Artists
Presenting Festival

Salisbury City Hall

Date Seen
  1. Jun 2003

This article in the magazine

Issue 15-3
p. 27