A celebration from the start, Tiger Lady follows the story of Mabel Stark – a woman who became known as one of the world’s first female animal trainers in the twentieth century. The show is playing at Pleasance Courtyard (Above), and it is written by Kasia Zaremba-Byrne, Alex Byrne, and the ensemble of Dead Rabbits Theatre Company who present the performance.
Through song, puppetry, illusion and the tricks of the trade, Tiger Lady captures the joyous, daring, and at times fraudulent spirit of early-twentieth-century circus. Despite a focus on Mabel, the show features an ensemble cast, and each member addresses the audience with true ringmaster spirit. The audience themselves are multicast in a variety of roles, none of which will allow you to miss out on any of the onstage fun.
Historical showpeople often sensationalised their own biographies, and stories of their lives tend to invite a degree of speculation. Natisha Williams-Samuels plays Mabel Stark with sincerity and freedom, depicting her as both a historical figure and a legend. This produced hilarious and tender moments without discounting Stark’s agency, courage and intellect.
Antonio Victorio played showman Al G Barnes a few notches higher on the camp scale than the rest of the cast, but this worked well given their eccentric character. Other cast members included Abayomi Oniyide as Art Rooney, James Parker as Louis Roth, Chloe Waddilove as Maggie Speaks, and Eddie Breckenridge as Rajah the Tiger. There were no weak links, and every cast member offered a unique quirky energy.
The cast formed a funky live band at points, playing music that fit the 1920s setting with a comedic modern edge. The story flowed with the help of its inventively used set, designed by Tina Bicât. The lighting designed by David Hockham and the sound designed by Greg Hall worked with the performers to deliver an immersive and fluid experience.
Tiger Lady knows what it sets out to achieve and it does so brilliantly. The show is ridiculous in the best possible way, showing just how genius silliness can be.