Biennale of Sydney 2010 – Tiger Lillies

Biennale of Sydney 2010 – Tiger Lillies

London-based three piece band the Tiger Lillies premiere their new ‘post-punk’ neo-Brechtian opera Cockatoo Prison (2010) about crimes and society’s attitude towards them.

Formed in London in 1989, The Tiger Lillies garnered their name from a wild flower and an infamous prostitute that singer and accordionist Martyn Jaques encountered coming of age in the subterranean culture of the London underground.

As their nightmarish clown alter-egos, The Tiger Lillies bring to the stage a demented and humorous vision of the dark side of society. Their songs take a light-hearted approach towards subjects such as bestiality, prostitution and blasphemy.

Fronted by Martyn Jaques, the performance draws on the complex history of Cockatoo Island as a brutal former penal colony and considers ways in which crime is regarded and power is dispensed within contemporary society.

Joining the band on stage, an ensemble of percussionists behind bars play the part of prison inmates.

BTW  All three Tigerlillies performaces are completely booked out


Cockatoo Prison takes as its starting point the complex history of prisons, penal colonies and in particular, Cockatoo Island, to present an excoriating analysis of the many ways in which crime is regarded and power is dispensed within contemporary society.

The infamous London-based trio will be joined on stage by cast of criminals, playing percussion on the bars of their gaol. Backed by this motley group of prisoners – the thief, the rapist, the fraudster, the bomber, the junkie, the paedophile, the gangster, the cut throat, the serial killer, the sadist, the child murderer – the Tiger Lillies introduce the inmates and their crimes through song and employ the assistance of a warden.

This performance contains strong language and material that may be disturbing or cause offence to some viewers. Not considered suitable for people of a ‘nervous disposition’.

Three special performances of Cockatoo Prison will take place in Building 74 on Cockatoo Island from 7.30 – 9 pm.

photos above by Mark Holthusen

Martyn Jacques – Vocals, Accordion.

Martyn Jacques, the founder of The Tiger Lillies, spent much of his early years living above a brothel in London’s Soho. His songs describe (in lurid detail) pimps, prostitutes, drug addicts, losers and other unsavoury characters. He wrote the music for Shockheaded Peter and won an Olivier Award for Best Supporting Performance in a Musical for his memorable role in the work. He is currently working on several theatrical projects.

Adrian Huge – Drums, Percussion, Toys.

“James Joyce on drums” exclaimed David Byrne on seeing Adrian Huge at work with the Tiger Lillies. Adrian has worked in butchers, pie shops, banks, motorcycle shops, and as a ham-fisted-but-cheap car mechanic before co-founding, in 1982, Dover’s only surreal, theatrical jazz/punk/calypso comedy ensemble : Uncle Lumpy and the Fish Doctors. The group floundered shortly after arriving in London in 1989 which coincided with the formation of The Tiger Lillies and the start of his bashing ever smaller, re-cycled drums, toys and kitchen-ware.

Adrian Stout – Contra Bass, Musical Saw, Theremin, Vocals.

Adrian Stout had played Blues, Jazz, Country, and other primitive musical forms in various known and lesser known bands throughout the UK, Europe and as far afield as India, and recorded two albums for Blues diva Dana Gillespie before being co-opted by The Tiger Lillies for 1995’s Edinburgh Festival. This once serious musician has since then found himself dancing in leider hosen, making love to inflatable sheep and dressing as a cheap prostitute.

Adrian Stout at the jumping castle

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