A review of
The Tiger Lillies's
The Gorey End
performed live at London's Lyric Hammersmith Theatre in May 2003

by Lloyd Ellis

The Gorey End
Performed by The Tiger Lillies
and accompanied by the Kronos Quartet
is available on CD from EMI Classics at

May 17, 2003      Special to Goreyography

In 1999 The Tiger Lillies received a letter from Edward Gorey explaining that he'd been given a copy of the CD to their hit stage show Shockheaded Peter and would love to collaborate. Sadly Gorey died before he could hear the songs that Martin Jacques wrote. The combination was perfect. Shockheaded Peter had adapted the dark cautionary tales of Heinrich Hoffmann into glorious songs of children dying in funny and macabre situations, much like The Gashlycrumb Tinies in fact. The thirteen songs that emerged from the union are deliciously dark and twisted tales based on unpublished Gorey stories.

The Lyric Hammersmith is a fitting venue for this show. It's where Shockheaded Peter was born and has a nicely-aged decadence in the decor which can take you into a toy theatre of the imagination. Here it was used as it often is as a musical venue to great effect. The audience sitting with fixed attention on the stage as Julian Bleach, narrator from Shockheaded Peter, creeped on stage carrying a shabby black umbrella brilliantly portraying the character of Death from the cover of The Gashlycrumb Tinies, to introduce the proceedings, firstly by reading that important letter from 1999 and then presenting the titles of each song or reading by revealing title cards at the side of the stage. Jacques' falsetto voice hauntingly and beautifully rendered Gorey's new tales bringing them to life with humour and pathos. The Tiger Lillies also consists of percussionist Adrian Huge and double bass player Adrian Stout who use inventive means to create strange and unexpected noises. The Kronos Quartet gave a chamber music feel that evoked Gorey's fascination with upper class stately homes.

Songs that stood out were The Learned Pig, a sad tale of a pig who learns how to read only to get put in a traveling show and get run-over, and The Besotted Mother in which a baby is dressed up in a cute outfit made of bunny-fur and soon savaged by a pack of angry dogs... Typically dark, typically Gorey. Between songs we were treated to readings of classic Gorey books by Bleach and actors Alan Rickman, Imogen Claire and Rosalind Knight, as well as a sweet little girl called Josie Hall who read The Gashlycrumb Tinies. Rickman was spot on with his subtle reading of The Chinese Obelisks, and The Curious Sofa had everyone in stitches. Near the end they read endings to stories that Gorey had written without writing the rest: "I forgive you all, he said, and died." as a post-script. The Tiger Lillies also performed, as an encore, their song Flying Robert from Shockheaded Peter.

The night was enjoyed by everyone, I'm sure. Bleach was particularly hilarious as the grim MC managing to maintain a fixed-grin on his white skull of a face throughout the whole evening. It's a shame that Gorey never heard these songs because he would have loved them. The CD works extremely well as a record of the show and in its own right. Half-way through it you might wonder why you are listening to a voice screaming "Gin! Gin! Gin!" but you wipe tears from your eyes (not just from laughing or crying) but from emotions that the music stirs from some dark place in your soul, and you realise that The Tiger Lillies have something very special, and like Gorey they connect with our everyday lives and gently mocking our mores and taboos about death and the bizarre. Hopefully the ensemble will perform this again, in the meantime I recommend The Gorey End on CD as soon as you can, and be amazed.

Lloyd Ellis,
May 17, 2003

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