Hayes Theatre, September 14
We all have our secret addictions, whether electric trains, absinth, bondage or Jane Austen. Baroness Bianka’s secret craving is the elixir of life itself: blood. She is, she tells us, a haemophiliac. The poor thing has been this way ever since she was knee-high to a vampire in the old country, and watched her hated nanny trip under the tracks of a tank. Thereafter blood and good were intermingled in her mind forever.
Joanna Weinberg has written this show for her new alter-ego: a blood-besotted girl who became a nurse and then discovered she was actually a baroness. She tells stories and sings her “bloodsongs” in a chewy Eastern European accent, accompanying herself on accordion, piano or even frame-drum, while Mark Ginsburg weaves soprano saxophone around her, tangos on guitar, or creates a percussive groove by scraping a cleaver on a steel.
The baroness is not merely obsessed by blood, she is a connoisseur. By merely sniffing she can pick up on someone’s blood type. She revels in the joys of menstruation, wears a bandage like a fashionable scarf and settles on Catholicism as her religion of choice because of all the juicy images of flayed and impaled saints. As a nurse she steals blood and takes it home to turn her bath-water a delicious, swirling red.
The comedy is as black as that bath is bright, and the character that Weinberg has created (under Lisa Freshwater’s direction) is daffy and utterly engaging. Her original songs are a delight, and never outstay their welcome, aided by the dulcet in-character singing and expert accompaniment. Perhaps it was a shame that the songs she played at the piano required her to read music or lyrics or both, because we lost the immediacy of the contact with her animated eyes, and perhaps the Masochism Tango could have been partly danced rather than being sedentary, but this is one clever and very funny cabaret show.
September 21 & 28.