Scintillatingly clever and funny

By Bradley Storer

Not being a big gin-drinker myself, I was worried initially that a show entirely about gin would fly straight over my head. I was put at ease straight away upon entering the venue to find the performers jauntily jamming away onstage about groanworthy gin puns to the laughter of the audience – I may not be a gin connoisseur, but I AM a lover of bad puns.

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After the show proper began, we were introduced to performers and writers Libby Wood and Maeve Marsden along with their token male accompanist, indie cabaret star Tom Dickins, in a riotous Kander and Ebb number complete with hilariously minimal choreography before we shot off on a rocketing ride through the varied and colourful history of gin.

Wood and Marsden guide us through industrial revolution London, into the Peruvian jungles and all the way through to the modern day, utilizing music from artists such as Amy Winehouse, Peggy Lee and Nina Simone re-arranged into scintillating three-way harmonies, along with a few choice moments of beat-boxing and the uniquely titled ‘malarial burlesque’. Wood and Marsden’s voices blend and meld beautifully together in harmony, but both are equally capable of unleashing powerful vocals in their solo spots.

What is so striking about the show is how it examines the interconnection of gin, which stereotypically was believed to have been produced and consumed primarily by Industrial-era women, with historical patterns of misogyny and the disempowerment of women that continued deep into the 20th century. While played mostly for laughs, hearing the stories of women throughout the ages subtly suggests that the ‘mother’s ruin’ of the title is not in fact gin, but patriarchal oppression itself as it grinds women down to nothing. When Marsden lets loose an iconic and expletive-filled Martha Wainwright song, the withering lyric ‘I will not put on a smile / I will not say I’m all right for you’ feels like the rage-filled cry of women throughout history spilling forth in defiant indignation.

An hilarious comedy-cabaret with a cunningly concealed sociological undercurrent, it is easy to see why Mother’s Ruin has been enjoying sell-out seasons across the country and we can only hope for even more success for such an original and creatively executed show!

Mother’s Ruin: A Cabaret About Gin played at The Box, Map 57, Jacka Blvd, St Kilda VIC 3182 from 19 – 21 July, 2017.