In theory it seems like a great fit: masters of the macabre The Tiger Lillies channel Edgar Allen Poe. The depressive, tubercular writer’s autobiography alone contains a wealth of material and his stories plumb the depths of the human condition.
Unfortunately, The Tiger Lillies eschew much of that source material, exchanging it for bestiality jokes and a mentally challenged assistant who is locked in a cage and eats babies. In his short stories Poe evokes tension and dread, but this show instead opts for cheap gags in an attempt to shock the audience out of its torpor.
In the opening song, Martin Jacques declares himself 'the imp of the perverse' telling the audience repeatedly just how bad he is and hamming it up as a pantomime villain. This sets the tone for 90 long minutes. The musical backing is exquisite, making use of theremin, musical saw and the more conventional drum and bass. But the songs themselves are overly simplistic and repetitive, belying the band’s talent.
Five years ago, the Tiger Lillies' Rime Of The Ancient Mariner foregrounded the original narrative, but this disjointed collection of scenes switches between Poe’s stories and his own life mindlessly, and lingers far too long on Jacques’ tedious character.
The sumptuous projected set looks incredible and the accompanying actors (playing the aforementioned assistant and Poe) hurtle around and through it, including in one memorable chase scene. But it’s telling that the highlight of this interminable performance comes at the very end with a musical version of The Raven that makes use of Poe’s words and actually allows time for the drama to build. Would that there were more.