CULTURE

Outcasts and the Tiger Lillies

“Everything began 13 years ago. I had an accordion, sang, and played piano and guitar. And then, I saw a concert by Jacques Brel on television,» is how Martyn Jacques, the founding member of the Tiger Lillies, described the act’s beginning. His unique ability as a singer and the artist’s undeniable stage presence as part of the Tiger Lillies’ show, have been captivating Athenian audiences for weeks now at an ongoing series of performances at the Gyalino Mousiko Theatro. The group’s show, «Variete,» a musical drama based on the act’s «Circus Songs» album, tells the story of several outcasts. «A young barwoman dreams that, one day, she will become a great acrobat; Lilly the whore shows off all her bounty; Jimmy sells crack at half price; a clown recalls better days full of ice cream and cotton candy,» said Jacques, while running through the production’s roles in an interview with Kathimerini. As for his own artistic talent, Jacques noted: «I was fortunate to be born with a natural gift – a voice able to register extremely high notes. When I was small, I sang in a choir. My voice broke during adolescence, but several years later, I discovered that I could still sing as I had in the past.» Now, 13 years after establishing his group, the Tiger Lillies, Jacques continues to sing, write lyrics, music, and play accordion for the act’s performances. With him, from the beginning, have been his two inseparable friends and bandmates – drummer Adrian Huge, and double-bassist Adrian Stout. Considering their time together, Jacques said that the desire for artistic evolution remained intense. «What I’m interested in now is trying new things based on my initial ideas, introducing new musical instruments, finding new themes, and experimenting in various musical styles,» said Jacques. «I’m constantly striving to find new material that’s groundbreaking, strange, surrealistic, and also viewing things from a different angle, or keeping a flame of authenticity burning in my lyrics and music. I like to rediscover things in myself all the time.» These days, Jacques divides his time between living in London and Marseilles – when not on the road, that is. Most of his time is spent touring the world with the Tiger Lillies. Jacques rates «Shockheaded Peter,» a production first presented six years ago at London’s West End Piccadilly Theater, where it ran for 12 consecutive weeks, as a career highlight, so far. It earned the group an Olivier Award. As for future plans, the Tiger Lillies, which recently finished recording a new album with the Kronos Quartet, an established group in its own right, intend to begin shows based on this collaboration. «Nationalists, socialists, communists and capitalists all agree that you don’t exist, and just look at you as you slash your veins. In search of sunlight, there in your room, looking for a ray in the dim light, you dream of better days…,» sings Jacques every night, without fail, at the current shows in Athens. Away from the stage, and in real life, Jacques feels pessimistic about humanity’s prospects, but believes that solace can exist on a more personal level. «The situation just keeps repeating itself. Wars and conflicts will always exist,» he noted. «But every person has the ability to create a better personal world.» Gyalino Mousiko Theatro, 143 Syngrou Ave, tel 210.931.6101-4. Last shows tonight and tomorrow.