Edinburgh Fringe 2013
Welcome to the end of the world! Two talented jongleurs strum, pluck, and sing their way through a rib-tickling tale of the world after the end of the world. With mild audience participation, a few jokes, and a host of delicious songs set in a dark and comfortable cabaret space in the Voodoo Rooms, this Laurel and Hardy-esque duo manage to be sinister, likeable, and profound all at once.
Gustav and Jakob Martyr have survived the apocalypse as, it would seem, have all of us. We are gathered in a cushioned, wood-panelled, well-stocked bar, and it’s fire and brimstone outside as far as the eye can reach. News from far-off places is sparse and grim. But it’s all smiles in the cabaret! These to cello-and-uke wielding defenders of the faith are hoping to preserve something of the world that came before and they need our help… So we’re told. This is classical cabaret in threadbare coats and battered bowler hats. With song after song touching on a variety of musical genres, After the Apocalypse may be a little off the beaten path, but it’s worth the walk.
Although the two are talented musicians with pleasant singing voices, there’s a lot of talk in this performance – jokes being told, exposition being filled in, and patter with the audience. And much of this back and forth works well, but there are times when interactions with the audience are a bit creaky, and we yearn for the rolling tones of song again. Still, the pair does a good job of getting sometimes-reluctant participants to take on roles in the new democratic state of cabaret. Their exhortations eliciting a slew of creative responses to questions, prompts, and calls to action, we find ourselves drawn inexorably into the action and the story.
The mechanics of this performance are as time-tested and true as they are clever, and the cheeky winks here and there punctuate a performance of skill and talent. And though the subject matter may be somewhat macabre, there is a message of hope underlying this tale of doom. One is made mindful of Douglas Adams’ Restaurant at the End of the Universe. There’s the same sense of being shielded, of having a front-row seat to the main event, and of being one of the lucky few who get to see the rebirth of the new world. Through their use of humour and song they manage to slip in quite a bit of pre-apocalyptic political ideology without coming across as preachy or didactic, and we willingly join in with the games because, after all, what have we got to lose? Once the worst has happened, the rest is all really just gravy, isn’t it?
With a design scheme that feels decidedly depression-era in some respects, the Creative Martyrs take us back to another time, playing on the nostalgia that accompanies classic cabaret almost by default. There are no gimmicks here, no multi-media layers of distraction to fill in the gaps. After the Apocalypse has no need of such trinkets to make it more than what it is. Well-crafted and earnestly performed, this is a show that will leave you wanting more.