Friday, 20 May 2016

Kabakunst @ Govanhill Baths

Although Wiemar Cabaret appears to be the most appropriate comparison for the Creative Martyrs (there's a clue in the title of the show), their productions have an increasingly post-modern edge that suggests a more contemporary influence. The re-purposing of familiar Martyr's tunes (War Whore becomes a marching exercise for the audience) and the juxtaposition of diverse cabaret styles (Tom Harlow's sensuous singing boylesque next to unaccompanied chants that evoke Gregorian chant) reveals a dramaturgy that revels in bricolage which, to paraphrase the Wu Tang Clan, brews a new stew with some old stock.

Kabakunst, rather like 36 Chambers, has an expanded cast, and flips between artists to keep the flow rolling. Two beautiful boylesque acts - both playing with the totems of gender identity - contrast against the gruffness of The Martyrs. Boylesque glamour becomes seedier by association, and the Martyr's romantic revolutionary riffs are lent sensuality and languor. Taking on Govanhill Baths, with its post-industrial aura of decay, The Martyrs both acknowledge the modern fashion for finding idiosyncratic spaces for performance, and evoke nostalgia for a past, when public utilities were actually funded by the state. 

Over the past decade, the Martyrs have worked hard to develop their own universe. The familiarity of some of their numbers (Funny Trap, War Whore) make Kabakunst simultaneously a greatest hits round-up and a new show. The themes - state control, the failure of revolutionary energy and the dangers of hedonism (this time, it's alcoholism) - resurface and their distinctive style of seduction, followed by deconstruction, is almost comfortably provocative. The introductory number sets the tone. The List begins by offering privileges to those selected, before becoming a nightmare of control and aggression.

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