Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

CABARET A Tale of the Unexpected; Combine the Talents of a National Opera Company, a Cult Band and a Former Royal Ballet Dancer and What Do You Get? the Answer, as Barbara Hodgson Discovers, Lies in Darkness

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

CABARET A Tale of the Unexpected; Combine the Talents of a National Opera Company, a Cult Band and a Former Royal Ballet Dancer and What Do You Get? the Answer, as Barbara Hodgson Discovers, Lies in Darkness

Article excerpt

There are certain collaborations you hear about that you can't wait to see. And fitting the bill, for me at least, is a meeting of minds between Opera North and cult band The Tiger Lillies.

My first thought was 'how will that work'? followed quickly by 'when can I find out?' and the answer to both will be revealed at Northern Stage when Lulu: A Murder Ballad stops off on tour.

Billed as "darkly twisted", which might not on the face of it sound the most appealing of new shows, the commission by Opera North Projects - the boundary-crossing arm of the company which aims to mix classical and contemporary and take apart the elements of opera and put them back together in new ways - promises a memorable one-off.

It sees The Tiger Lillies put their trademark dark stamp on the 1895 tales of Lulu by German playwright Frank Wedekind who, having earlier shocked audiences with Spring Awakening, followed up with more sex and violence in his life of a young dancer who rose to be the toast of society then fell into prostitution, with a Jack the Ripper encounter along the way.

The story was later adapted into a silent movie (1929's Pandora's Box - taking the title of Wedekind's second Lulu play) then an opera: Alban Berg's 1937 Lulu.

Both have inspired The Tiger Lillies and, in their hands, Wedekind's unpredictable and tragic heroine - who's played by a former Royal Ballet dancer - follows a self-destructive journey from Berlin through Paris to London in what's described as a "hypnotic and kaleidoscopic dance of death".

For anyone who doesn't know their work, it's not the easiest to sum up but imagine, if you can, a very strange mix of pre-war Berlin cabaret, Brechtian street opera, gypsy music and tortured vocals. Founder member Martyn Jacques, often pictured with scary clown make-up and an accordion, is an opera singer with a self-taught castrati-style voice.

Words such as "gaudy" and "obscene" are used to describe his work in reviews which invariably turn out to be wildly favourable.

I saw the Olivier Award-winning Shockheaded Peter at the Theatre Royal years ago and have never forgotten the macabre re-telling of 1845 German children's book Der Struwwelpeter. …

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