Cabaret & variety review: Kabakunst

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“It’s been something of a dynamic year,” note the Creative Martyrs with understatement.

Star rating: ****
Venue: Fingers Piano Bar (Venue 221)

For a long time, this talented satirical duo have been warning, through deceptively jaunty music and post-Brechtian tomfoolery, that certain aspects of society are not headed in a good direction. It can only be cold comfort that 2016 seems to offer further confirmation of their suspicions with every passing week.

Wearing whiteface, bowlers and suits while strumming ukulele and plucking cello, they have both a shabby, sombre dignity and the clown’s licence to needle and provoke – though theirs is a dry, wry wit.

In past shows, the Martyrs have invited their audiences to experiment with ideas of utopia but this year – aside from a musical paean to cabaret as “the conjugal art”, letting the audience enjoy their part in proceedings – they offer a scathing survey of the world as it is.

There’s plenty of attention to the arbitrary nature of borders and the hypocrisy and horrors that follow from their ruthless defence and expansion, including a disturbingly propulsive number about “bombing for peace”, as well as scathing considerations of attitudes towards immigration and refugees and the human predilection for weaponry.

Contemporary narcissism also takes a kicking with acerbic swipes at “digital kleptomaniacs” photographing every moment of their own lives without worrying about the rise of other kinds of surveillance.

There’s room for a couple of grotesque character pieces too and some rowdy interaction with the audience, who are encouraged to divide and conquer. The Martyrs always provoke us to consider our own complicity in the troubles of the world, as well as our relative luck. “It’s not been a very good year,” they reiterate. “But then we are all here.”

Until 28 August. Today 9pm.