Note: This review is from the 2015 Fringe

@ Underbelly Cowgate, Edinburgh, until Sun 30 Aug 2015 @ 20:40

(Reviewed during previews)

Crooning cats, tap-dancing foxes and barbershop squirrels – the taxidermy puppets of Sing For Your Life certainly know how to leave an impression. These real dead animals, plucked or stuffed, adorned with googly eyes and wonky teeth by artist Charlie Tuesday Gates, have been given a bizarre afterlife, animated by a cast of four to sing the story of their lives cabaret-style.

The tunes they sing, backed by a live band, are sickly comical. Nancy Sinatra’s Bang Bang becomes a lament to culled badgers, Britney’s I’m A Slave 4 U a critique of oven-ready chickens. If that sounds a tad right-on, it isn’t. You may want to reconsider having turkey twizzlers for tea, but if so, you’ll have been laughed, not lectured, to that conclusion. Surprises lie in store too, as the show gets progressively stronger, and darker; the darkest segment doesn”t even involve taxidermy, but animal-on-human experimentation, and a smart Queen rip-off.

A couple of weaker numbers perhaps don’t do the clever concept justice, and the cast are sometimes giving so much, physically and vocally, that it’s hard not to end up watching them, rather than the puppets, but this is a show that displays heart, talent and invention, and which has enough humour and cheekiness to get away with the grizzly dramatis personae without turning stomachs.