Edinburgh Festival Fringe: If cabaret had a national drink, it would be gin. Many of the form’s devotees are deeply attached to the tipple so the creators of Mother’s Ruin: A Cabaret about Gin have a lot to live up to.
Gilded Balloon at Rose Theatre (Venue 76)
If cabaret had a national drink, it would be gin. Many of the form’s devotees are deeply attached to the tipple so the creators of Mother’s Ruin: A Cabaret about Gin have a lot to live up to.
Happily, they more than deliver, presenting an effervescent showcase that combines barnstorming musical numbers and confident, relaxed humour with intriguing historical material, and recognition of the dark side of booze too.
The show is the creation of Maeve Marsden and Libby Wood, who are already on stage throwing around gin-based puns alongside their terrific accompanist Tom Dickins as we take our seats via the theatre’s complementary G&T station. (They had me at ‘Hello.’)
Like revivalist preachers, the duo induct us into the church of gin with a bastardised Lord’s Prayer before embarking on a multifaceted journey that moves from best-practice serving tips and cocktail origin stories to some surprisingly political history.
There are evocatively drawn lessons in the role gin has played in female oppression and liberation as well as colonial excursions from Peru to India, and even evidence of how the 18th-century rivalry between beer and gin gave the drink a bad name.
The heart of the show, though, is a storming set list that takes in numbers by Amy Winehouse, Martha Wainwright, Nina Simone and the Pretenders.
Many songs are given wittily repurposed lyrics: Peggy Lee’s “Fever”, for instance, gets a queasy malarial makeover while Johnny Cash’s “I’ve Been Everywhere”’ becomes a connoisseur’s anthem.
As well as demonstrating their talent across an impressive range of musical registers, Marsden and Wood maintain a spot-on balance of larky humour, bolshy political consciousness, palpable passion for their subject and sheer joie de vivre. Well worth raising a glass to.
Until 27 August. Today 6:15pm.