Dead Mother Cabaret

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Rating: 3/5 If you don’t think that death, fisting, gang necrophilia rape (which is difficult with a dead body) and your mother’s magic box are all hilarious, then you are a complete prude and won’t like Dead Mother Cabaret. I laughed until my spleen ruptured. The play is a fantastic concept and the writing and production team should be extremely proud of themselves. The script is snappy and gloriously directionless.Dead Mother Cabaret is, however, comparable to the USSR: a great idea which had a few problems when it burst forth from Lenin’s magic box. (I’ll stop stealing that metaphor now). The genius of the concept is somewhat let down in the realisation. The acting isn’t bad by any means, but it’s not as good as the play deserved.Some notable individuals really stand out. Chris Tudor, as Guy Johnson, comes close to the verbosity that this play really needed, and he’s helped along by the fantastic script. Dead Mother Cabaret is at its funniest in these moments, when a member of the cast manages to really go over the top. Tom Corcoran as the Narrator-Son puts on a perfect smoky American film noir hero style voice, though some shameless line forgetting without an attempt at picking up the pieces made me wonder for a moment whether I was back in primary school (you shouldn’t have a prompt, you just shouldn’t!). Real credit goes to Niall Gildea for his hilarious presentation of a Freudian-minded, Derrida driven writer, and Nishani Nijjar is strong in this scene as well. By far the best thing on stage was Philip Aspin as the grotesque Father, who surpassed even Chris Tudor in the bombastic presentation of his character. Aside from these flourishes, the acting tends to be rather plain. It’s not bad, but Cabaret demands over-the-top performance, which not all the cast was able to deliver.Complaining about a whole cast in a student production is a little over-critical, I’ll admit. The play has some fantastic touches. The guest stand-up comedian (on the Tuesday night James Laurence, who was wicked awesome with cream on top) is a brilliant innovation. Musically, Dead Mother Cabaret delivers as well. A live Jazz band is nigh on impossible to assemble in Oxford theatre, unless it’s playing at Satan’s Christmas party. Praise goes to the band, which perform astoundingly. The Oxford Belles are another great addition. However, they seem to have difficulty coping with accompaniment and could do with being louder. They sing beautifully, but that’s what you’d expect. Furthermore, they’re hampered by the same lack of over-enthusiasm as a large proportion of the cast. However, the play really does deserve credit for having the sheer audacity to try to do a musical in the all too frequently mute world of Oxford theatre.I’ve criticised some elements of Dead Mother Cabaret quite heavily, but I would honestly recommend it as one of the best things on this week. As a project, the play is audacious and is definitely what the Oxford stage needs. I’m tired of going to the theatre only to find I could have visited the Tate Modern (for free) to get a similar experience. Well done for putting fun back on the stage in a corset and suspender belt!by Dan Rawnsley

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