The Creative Martyrs: Kabakunst

What artsy, liberal Fringe-goer cannot help but identify with the image of the sad clown – monochromatic, melancholic, unsure whether to laugh or cry – after the political few years we have had? Such is the thinking of The Creative Martyrs, who have crafted another night of equal parts delight and despair, this year in the secretive setting of Fingers Piano Bar. Seamlessly combining satirical song-writing with the underground glamour of Weimar cabaret, the duo behind Kabakunst have spent the past few years being “accidentally prescient”; finally, the alt-right aren’t the only ones taking us back to the 1930s.

Underneath the white facepaint, the sense of fun that sparkles in the eyes of The Creative Martyrs sells this original, unexpected experience.

Delivering doomsday messages through the deceptive medium of vaudeville tunes, the idea of the combination works fantastically. The music, provided by two ukuleles and a cello, is top-tappingly catchy – and just as well, as a wee spot of dancing is very much encouraged. Occasionally the Martyrs’ lyrics are so precocious, and their vocabularies so vivacious, that sadly their meanings are lost amidst the jaunty melodies – at which point I suggest you sit back and soak up the exciting compositions.

Kabakunst is an exciting departure from the usual comedy fare, and an excellent introduction to cabaret for those not yet au fait with this smart, sexy artform. It is worth remembering, however, that Kabakunst is a essentially a showreel of political doom and gloom; if you can’t face reliving the lows, think twice before crossing the bar’s threshold, as even The Creative Martyrs’ 1930s musical time capsule can’t protect you from the very recent memories of 2016 and 2017 when they are laid out so plainly. Indeed, the political element is somewhat heavy-handed, and the patter and performance of the duo is not quite as slick as the other-worldly Kabarett style to which they pay homage to means that this does occasionally jar. With song topics ranging from nuclear warfare to Brexit to asylum seekers, don’t expect any hot takes. What The Creative Martyrs do provide is a thought-provoking new context for these issues, to an end which is far more moving, and far more self-interrogative than any political show I have seen thus far.

Yes, we might be being dragged back to the 1930s. But Kabakunst reminds us that it wasn’t – and isn’t – all bad. Underneath the white facepaint, the sense of fun that sparkles in the eyes of The Creative Martyrs sells this original, unexpected experience.

Reviews by Molly Stacey

Army @ The Fringe in Association with Summerhall

5 Soldiers

★★★★★
Fingers Piano Bar

The Creative Martyrs: Kabakunst

★★★★
Pleasance Dome

Lloyd Griffith in:Undated

★★★★
Gilded Balloon Teviot

Mark Nelson: Irreverence

★★★
Assembly George Square Studios

Sally Phillips and Lily Bevan: Talking to Strangers

★★★★★

Performances

Location

The Blurb

Odes to modern complacency and hubris: self-surveilling, Brexit-fearing, peace-bombing, Nazi-punching, trumping satire, all in a jaunty vaudeville fashion. Join us and be implicated. ‘In the hands of the Martyrs we can all die laughing’ (Skinny).