Everyone might have their favourite drink, but there is only one show at the Fringe this year that consists of an hour of musical odes to gin. Mother’s Ruin: A Cabaret about Gin is a nightlife-themed musical about one of Britain’s favourite liquors. Brought to the U.K. by of Maeve Marsden and Libby Wood from Sydney, this pair of jazz and soul singers come to share their love with likeminded audiences.
Mother’s Ruin is a jovial romp through a thousand years of the history of gin. From the Middle Ages to the prohibitive eighteenth century to the boom of gin micro distilleries today, Britain has had a varied and tumultuous relationship with the juniper-based spirit. Telling stories intermixed with songs by the likes of Amy Winehouse and Meg Keene, Marsden and Wood grab audiences with their belting voices and raunchy humour. The history also is written with a sub-narrative on women’s rights, serving as an argument for how gin helped bring women out of the home into the public sphere and allowed them to make their own incomes. With a gin and tonic included in the price of a ticket, constant conversation—and closer interaction—with the audience, and an invitation to visit the bar throughout the show, the performers successfully strike up an atmosphere of a turn-of-the-century nightclub. Audiences can also expect several nods to Kander and Ebb’s Cabaret, including a gin-themed rewriting of “Two Ladies”. The raucous style of the show is always fun and never drags.
Marsden and Wood are both talented singers with impressive range. Wood, the stronger of the two, seems to vary her volume and tone without even noticeably breathing, creating an appearance of effortlessness. Marsden’s voice was well trained but less interesting and lacked the same depth, so much of the musical interest remained instead with her partner. However, Marsden had considerably more grabbing stage presence, as Wood’s effortless singing sometimes passed into what looked like boredom, with few expression changes on her face and little more than a few waves of her hand to accompany a song. Marsden, by contrast, was vivacious and mobile, dancing suggestively across the stage or making physical jokes by contorting her body strangely or pretending to slip up. On the whole, though each have strengths and weaknesses as performers, the two balance each other out and ensure there is always something to appreciate in each performance.
Mother’s Ruin is a fantastic idea for a show well-executed. If you too think nothing can beat a classic G&T, don’t miss this hour of song and dance at the Fringe or on their upcoming U.K. tour.
Mother’s Ruin: A Cabaret about Gin
Photo credit: Patrick Boland