Musicals have the power to connect with people, whether it be through song or the subject matter of the performance. Some musicals shine a light on the darker side of humanity, which is the case with Corrido de la Sangre, performed by the Tiger Lillies. The band, considered to be the innovators of Brechtian punk cabaret, are known for their macabre lyrics and content. The musical took place at HOME in Manchester, and here are my thoughts on what was a haunting performance.
Corrido de la Sangre told the tale of an orphan in Mexico, who joined a band and became involved with a drug cartel. As soon as the lights dimmed, it felt as if I was watching a foreign film on stage. The Tiger Lillies acted as ghostly narrators, telling the story of the orphan through a mixture of song and puppetry. Lead singer Martyn Jacques played his accordion with mournful passion, welcoming the audience to The Day of the Dead. In telling the story, Jacques flitted between ghoulish devil’s advocate and a voice of wisdom.
The themes explored within the show included prostitution, religion and poverty. Mexico is presented as a brutal wasteland where only the strong survive and the weak are enslaved. The singer is taken in by the cartel, finding success with his band members and falling for a girl called Maria.
The supernatural seeped into the performance, with references to Santa Muerte and Spanish bruja taking centre stage. Within Corrido de la Sangre, Mexico took on a fairytale quality, where drug lords are kings fighting to keep hold of their riches. The singer is besotted with Maria, but feels trapped by his loyalty to the cartel. She becomes his ‘princess’ in need of rescuing. But it becomes clear he’s unable to save himself, let alone anyone else.
I was impressed by the range of instruments the Tiger Lillies used. At one point, a saw was used to create a spectral melody, sending a chill down my spine. Despite the darkness of the story, there was an underlying humour. This could be seen in the inclusion of a doctor who worked for the cartel and patched up gang members. The ‘good doctor’ saved bad people, referencing the futility of a life of crime. This dramatic irony was on display several times and it made the show even more intriguing.
The musical talents of the band are to be commended. My favourite songs involved howling at a silver moon and a deal with the devil. The Tiger Lillies aren’t afraid to hold up a mirror to society and show you how ugly the world can be. Their lyrics embrace the taboo and it’s fucking brilliant.
Corrido de la Sangre definitely isn’t a show for kids, but if you want to be swept away in a tale of mystery and intrigue, then you’ll get your money’s worth. The Tiger Lillies are bringing the show to several locations. For more information be sure to check out their official website.
Starring: The Tiger Lillies: Martyn Jaques, Adrian Stout, Jonas Golland
Created by: Mark Holthusen, Martyn Jaques, Pedar Bjurman
Directed by Mark Holthusen
Music and Lyrics by : Martyn Jaques
Written by: Pedar Bjurman
Video Projections by: Mark Holthusen