The term ‘cabaret’ is harder to pin down than the other show categories for Edinburgh Fringe. It suggests interactive, comical and occasionally bizarre forms of entertainment, often tailored to each audience, that can only be enjoyed to its fullest in a live environment. If you want to experience an act that truly embodies cabaret and what it stands for, look no further than The Creative Martyrs.
A glorious array of facial expressions, intonation and spot on scripting
The Martyrs are Gustav and Jakob, a monochromatic and macabre musical duo who engage wonderfully with the audience, as they perform dystopian songs about the apocalypse and other morbidities. They are one of the tougher acts in Edinburgh Fringe to accurately convey in prose, as are the feelings invoked from watching them. They're performing 40 shows, all bespoke for the mood in the room at the time, and comprise of their wide archive of songs and show direction. With a glorious array of facial expressions, intonation and spot on scripting, you never know quite what to expect.
Today’s show included Gustav pointing at mundanities such as a white headband and a young man tapping his foot, and elevating them into things of significance. He proceeded to play the 'mouth trumpet' directly at said tapping foot, provoking the man to exclaim "This is weird", as his friends burst out laughing. At one point, as they glance at their clock, someone in the audience says ‘Ooh, a clock’ and they go off on a wild tangent over timekeeping and the functioning of clocks. In the second half, the Martyrs hand out a bell to an audience member to ding when they want to hear a joke. The bell is dinged a couple of times during songs, and entirely overlooked – one doesn’t know if this is because the moment was inopportune, or if they never planned to respond to it in the first place. But by this point, you expect your expectations to be subverted. Such is their nature.
The material is of a consistently high quality, though there are occasional dips in energy and engagement across the room. In addition, some monologues and ramblings don’t make quite enough impact to justify their duration. However, these consummate professionals always bring the mood back before long. Most of the musical numbers on the day this reviewer attended were of a similar tone and timbre, played with expert musicianship on cello and ukulele. Highlights include a clap along song about zombies, and a killer finale that even the least participative audience members will want to get involved with.
It is often amusing, hilarious for fleeting moments, and a gleefully morbid experience that is well worth seeking out. If the 23:35 Voodoo Rooms showing of Kabarett DysUtopia is a little late for you, fear not, as they do the same (albeit still bespoke) show at 21:00 in Fingers Piano Bar, both of which are on PBH’s Free Fringe.