I’s not everyday you walk out of a theater stating: “What have I just watched, it’s so wrong yet so hilarious. Am I going to hell for laughing?”. Sing For Your Life is the musical that sums that response up. It is a play using roadkill taxidermy puppets which was touring last week in London as part of Vault Festival in Waterloo.
Charlie Tuesday Gates who essentially came up with the whole concept is actually a taxidermy artist who made pieces for Elton John and Beyoncé in the past and now put together a pack of animals for this saucy cabaret. The Vaults gallery, is an atmospheric space which you get to buy walking under railway arches off Leake Street past some amazing to the exciting live venue. It holds a handful of performance spaces and a couple of bars inside and is home to both the Mimetic festival in November and its own six-week Vault Festival.
We follow our protagonist a designer handbag underdog who’s un conditional love for this owner is thwarted away and he questions his life. After pooping on some narcissistic one night stand who was romping with his owner, he is left neglected and wonders out of the house. The perky pup comes across a strange underground cabaret company. The band of animals who run the show are; boss badger, a drunken hasbin fox, a splattered cat, three plucked chickens, four quarreling squirrels and a stripping mink (shudders uncontrollably).
They beckon to the ‘man’s best friend’ to help get a crowd for their show using his universal cute charm. They sing their stories to him in hope he will relent and join their disorganized razzmatazz. We have great covers of songs such as ‘I’m a slave for you’ with entertaining puppetry or dancing. I have to say it was amazing to see two-three actors working one puppet and seeing them bolt across the stage in order to make realistic animal movement.
True to my Japanese culture interest I did watch it thinking the animals were animated in a bunraku-style. The actors voiced each puppet and looked directly at the puppets and not audience. They also demonstrated some beautiful vocals from ballads to Jazzy solos on stage. Four actors and 11 puppets on show literally singing for their lives. This show made me think of the BBC series Mongrals but with extra bite!
The themes explored all revolved around the main focus on injustice; the dogs is neglected, the chickens are plucked and eaten after every show, the squirrels show prejudice nature against the one buff red breed amongst poor splat cat’s loneliness as ‘no one wants to go near that pussy’.
All the arrangements of music coupled with dark humour were directed by Kieron Vanstone, musical director Barnaby Southgate and the band’s four other musicians. Gates wrote the piece and performs alongside Madeline MacMahon, Nicholas Anscombe and Matthew Maguire.
I attended the last show of the week and it was completely packed and I was near the middle and I managed to get a great audio of the actors speaking and the musicians but I wasn’t able to see everything too clearly – which was a shame. I would recommend this for a big stage. The puppets were something to see. The humour retained sensibility at times but went full out crude at poignant moments also and I think everyone over the age of 156 would have understood and loved the show. My mother accompanied me to the show, who is in her 60’s, walked in cynical about the whole show but left with a tear in her eye and missing our cats immensely feeling sympathy with dog.
The show’s theme tune “Sing for your life,” was ingrained in my brain and I was singing all the way home. I think I’ll be investing in the soundtrack soon. If you like animals you must take the opportunity to watch this musical in the future.
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