It’s no accident that a cabaret show about the history of the sordid spirit, gin, would instantly have attracted my interest. After all, who wouldn’t be interested in a cabaret show that deals with sexism, misogyny, colonialism and propaganda? That’s right, the history of gin covers all these issues and with Mother’s Ruin: A Cabaret about Gin, not only are we educated on these but also remain constantly highly entertained.
Performers and co-creators, Maeve Marsden and Libby Wood have joined forces with Sydney based gin aficionado Elly Baxter from The Ginstress, who has been writing about gin since 2012. This collaboration allows the audience to hear more of the lesser-known facts of gin, ensuring we are always interested and intrigued by what is being revealed.
Marsden and Wood have a commanding presence on stage, and being part of feminist cabaret group Lady Sings It Better, they are no strangers to the performance space. They share a strong rapport with each other and their banter is highly engaging and natural. The audience is easily put on-side and after a cheeky performance of Lionel Bart’s “Oom Pah Pah”, we have no option but to succumb to the sweet elixir of gin - and to the ladies.
The variety of songs the two cover, which have been re-written to link to historic moments in gin consumption, are creative, daring and full of flair. Wood’s rendition of “Fever” in reference to the use of the alcohol to help combat malaria is not only vocally sublime but a stroke of comedy genius. Marsden’s performance of Martha Wainwright’s “Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole” is possibly the best song I have seen performed in a cabaret.
Joining Marsden and Wood on stage is musical director and skilful pianist and vocalist, Jeremy Brennan, whose cover of Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” had the entire venue erupt in a sing-a-long where it was very easy to picture everyone raising their glasses to the air with copious amounts of gin spilling everywhere. It’s not often that an entire audience can forget they are watching a performance and feel like they are just a communal group of people out together having some fun, but that moment was one of those unique theatre experiences.
Mother’s Ruin may be a loving ode to a favourite spirit but you do not need to be a gin drinker to appreciate its brilliance. With the show closing this weekend at the well-matched Butterfly Club, I highly recommend dropping any other weekend plans you might have and booking tickets for this. Go for the excellent show and stay for the delicious drinks; it will be one of the most enjoyable experiences you can currently have in Melbourne.
Venue: The Butterfly Club, 5 Carson Place, Melbourne
Season: Until 19 June | 8.30pm
Tickets: $36 Full | $30 Conc
Bookings: The Butterfly Club
*Original review appeared on Theatre Press on 17 June 2016.