It’s far from a pub singalong but the bonding of saucy songs and alcohol in the St Kilda cabaret Mother’s Ruin is strong.
Performed in the pop-up Map 57 winter garden beside St Kilda’s Palais Theatre, the carnival-lights, open-fire and gluhwein atmosphere is perfect for the slightly burlesque feel of Mother’s Ruin: A Cabaret about Gin.
The show opens with a medley of juniper-laced songs – but because there’s only a couple of genuine ones, singers Maeve, Libby and Tom (on guitar and piano) ad lib a lot, stretching the rules to include Like a VirGin and Goodbye Norma Gin….
By song three the girls have jumped from rewriting the Lord’s Prayer to the god Juniper, to blasting out some Southern gospel blues with as much spirit as a Sunday congregation in Smalltown, Louisiana.
It’s a confident, exuberant mix that ranges from flirty in Our Gin Threesome to blues and Honky Tonk, but it’s the spot-on two- and three-part harmonies that stamp their authority all over the show.
Then comes the feminist hit.
As Maeve and Libby start explaining the history of Dutch Jenever, aka Gin, abuse suddenly becomes inextricably linked with women’s apparent weakness and immorality. And the girls are having none of it.
Through Hogarth to Savoy barmaids and the Conquistadors discovering quinine, the stories are retold with side-splitting cynicism and much cavorting. And not a few buried bottles of gin, discreetly secreted about their ample bosoms.
Highlights are alto Maeve’s solo rendition of Martha Wainwright’s Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole (yes that’s what it’s called) and soprano Libby singing the gin-laced version of Fever to tell the story of tonic water. Both have the room in their thrall.
The magic comes from Maeve and Libby as much as the smart writing. Both bring their considerable personalities to bear on the show, and comfortably add a sparkle of humour to even the darkest bits of the show – and it does get a bit D&M in sections, about the time when Londoners were drinking an average of one litre of gin a week.
The package is tied up perfectly with a glorious a cappella rendition of The Pretenders’ Hymn to Her (She Will Always Carry On …), followed by their gin classic, which you can see of YouTube, I’ve Drunk Every Gin (sung to the tune of the Aussie outback classic, I’ve been everywhere).
Maeve is listed as the writer on their website, but both also feature strongly in the Meet the Ladies cabaret group – another opportunity to catch their talent.
It’s fun and only lasts for an hour, for just two more nights, then they’re off on tour! So hurry and go.
Mother’s Ruin: A Cabaret About Gin
Maeve Marsden and Libby Wood
Venue: Map 57 | St Kilda Winter Arts Garden
Dates: 19 – 21 July 2017
Tickets: $35 – $33