"Why can't I give 6*?"
by Tristán White for remotegoat on 05/03/15

I really was not expecting something as brilliant as this. I have seen a few shows at the excellent Vault festival this year already, and while the standard has been high on the whole, nothing prepared me for something as polished or as moving as "Sing for your Life".

The show was created, co-directed, written by and stars Charlie Tuesday Gates, a well-known ethical taxidermist who uses largely roadkill for her amusing pieces. It tells the story of a lapdog whose owner completely ignores him, in spite of the love he has shown for her. So he runs away and meets a fox, a badger, a cat, some squirrels and a few more suprises along the way. They are all rehearsing for some sort of X Factor style cabaret show. All this is happening in front of us, as well as a five-piece band tucked away in the corner playing live music, on a small but very well-designed stage.

In a way, this is far more charming than the big brash performance of Avenue Q (and an awful lot cheaper too!). For a start, these used to be real animals. Now, this may not be appear to be a selling point for some readers, but for this reviewer it was: these are animals with their own real past, their own stories. They have mostly been scraped up from the ground beside a motorway, and they have effectively been brought back to life. Avenue Q, for all the talent in the acting and songwriting, are just Sesame Street style puppets, and lacks the morbidity that makes "Sing for your Life" particularly dark.

I was chatting with a festival-goer outside after the show. She had foolishly gone to see something else, and wasn't keen on seeing "Sing for your Life" because she wasn't sure about taxidermy, and was an animal lover. I explained to her that she therefore simply *had* to see it, because she would be the perfect audience. For this is not just a show where people are singing songs with dead animals as puppets, this has seriously green and environmental credentials. The songs are about subjects such as man's inhumanity towards animals, their greed for chicken-wings or fur... This is all very ethical, right-on and funny at the same time. And it makes you think about how wonderful our furry friends really are. The googly eyes that Gates has decided to give each creature only adds to this sense of otherworldliness.

The music is also very entertaining by itself. Mostly all original lyrics by Charlie Tuesday Gates, all very clearly sung by the puppeteers who are excellently miked up and audible in spite of the occasional rumble of trains overhead. I am trying to remember how many puppeteers/singers there were on stage, and can only remember four, yet somehow they appeared to be everywhere, even occasionally playing the parts of humans. Some of the songs really are great fun and are as good as any I have seen in musical comedy of late. In fact, when the show ended, most of the audience didn't immediately get up, because they were expecting the performers to come on and take a bow. They didn't, and I felt that everyone was disappointed by that. I am sure the cast would have got a standing ovation.

Of course, with a show at The Vault, you're not just paying for the show you are seeing, but also for the buzzy atmosphere and other shows that may be on, some of which is free. I recommend coming early and soaking in some of the atmosphere, and then perhaps staying on for a few drinks afterwards. Because this show starts late, you have plenty of time to catch at least one show beforehand if not two.

On the whole, a fantastic evening. It is such a shame that it is only on until the 8th of March, because for this reviewer it really has been the star attraction of the Vault Festival so far. I would be very, very surprised if this doesn't go on a national tour. It so deserves it!

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