Torte E Mort: Songs of Cake and Death

I have learnt over the years to never doubt the aptitude of a woman who can undress herself while playing piano. Anya Anastasia’s performance in Torte E Mort tonight at the Royal Croquet Club has proved this universal truth valid once again.

The show launches with a coy and ultimately sexy burlesque lie (possibly the best kind of lie), but what follows is a beautifully crafted hour of dark humour littered with spectacular puns, mild political satire, and some damn fine musicianship dressed up in an 18th Century pannier.

We watch as Marie Antoinette is transformed from the body-possessing, extravagant, high haired Queen of France to a beheaded head-in-a-box that laments the loss of her limbs and her capacity to drink champagne. We’re also presented with the Devil (who is Australian, apparently), a rather flexible and seductive skeleton, Death itself, and a beautiful ghost-like figure who reminds us through stirring song that, one day, we’ll all be dead.

Bec Matthews’ of Circus Oz fame accompanies Anastasia on drums, providing a wonderful depth of atmosphere to an uncomplicated stage set up. In addition to her phenomenal percussion skills, Matthews takes control of the stage during costume changes by playing the role of executioner and, my favourite, performing a fantastic shadow puppet sequence.

I also thoroughly enjoyed Joy Sparks as the mostly silent, stony-faced peasant who lurked in the shadows, contrasting the extravagance of Marie Antoinette’s lavish existence and providing stage hand assistance. Keep a close eye on this one – she adds subtle and often sly humour, if only you can look away from the spotlight.

I have always loved cabaret, but tonight I learnt that I have a lot of room in my heart for glowing skeleton, severed head, saw-blade violin, devil-in-latex cabaret. Torte E Mort is only playing for ten shows this Fringe, so, even if you’re not sure about cabaret, I’d recommend trying this one on.

★★★★