THE TIGER LILLIES – THE SONGS OF SHOCKHEADED PETER AND OTHER GORY VERSES **** PLEASANCE COURTYARD (VENUE 33)
IF YOU have never seen the Tiger Lillies before, I urge you to seek out a ticket for this glorious show, which sees them revisit some of the darkest and goriest songs in their repertoire.
The Tiger Lillies are unique: a trio of brilliant musicians led by the clown-faced bowler-hatted twisted falsetto genius Martyn Jacques.
They create a truly extraordinary atmosphere on stage – a sort of dark gypsy cabaret shimmering with menace. Adrian Huge plays drums with an air of quiet rage, while double bass and musical saw player Adrian Stout adopts an air of detached desperation. At the centre is Jacques, pounding his accordion and singing and screeching in his unearthly voice.
Tonight they revisit a lot of songs from their award-winning musical Shockheaded Peter, based on the violent German children's book by Heinrich Hoffmann, Struwwelpeter, along with a selection from their 20 years as "the world's foremost Death Oompah band".
From Hoffmann's tales there is The Dreadful Tale of Harriet and the Matches, Snip Snip and Bully Boys. Start a Fire is a stirring incitement to pyromania, while to accompany My Baby's Dead toymaster Huge hammers the drums with a doll baby.
Despite the gory imagery and the playground tricks, the Tiger Lillies' music is also gorgeously beautiful, tender and delicate – although the sweetness is almost always followed by some outrageously funny or horrible twist.
My favourite was the gleeful crucifixion song Banging in the Nails – which caused the only walkout of the night. As former theology student Jacques sang "Bang a bang bang banging in the nails" a woman near the back stood and walked purposefully to the exit. The lead singer's painted face was a perfect blend of pathos, mischief and defiance.
It is hard to do justice to the dark poetic brilliance of the Tiger Lillies, so the best thing I can advise is that you go and see them yourselves. If you already know what to expect, the good news is the band are doing requests.
• Until 30 August. Today 9:40pm.