Melbourne Cabaret Fringe 2016 – Mother’s Ruin: A Cabaret about Gin

MCF Mothers RuinTogether, Maeve Marsden and Libby Wood are the vocal talents behind Mother’s Ruin: A Cabaret about Gin. They’ve distilled the turbulent history of this spirit into an intoxicating libation of music, comedy, and even some information, with lashings of what gin means to them. Like all the best cocktails, Mother’s Ruin has diverse flavours, finely balanced.

Marsden and Wood combine with delicious harmonies as they stagger and strut their way through a thoughtful, drinking-themed playlist. From the opening, Bessie Smith’s Gin House Blues, the diverse programme ranged across That Woman’s Got Me Drinking (The Popes), You Know I’m No Good (Amy Winehouse), Fever, Misery & Gin (Merle Haggard) and Bloody Motherfucking Asshole (Martha Wainwright).

Some songs were altered slightly to make the lyrics relevant to Marsden and Wood’s adventures, with some very humorous results. I especially loved their take on the blues, but picking a favourite song from this high-standard set would be as difficult as just choosing one gin for life.

The sneaky educational component gives us an understanding of how colonialism lead to us enjoying gin today, the (laughable) prejudice in Industrial Revolution times Britain against gin, and more severely, against the women trying to earn a living by making it. This “feminist cabaret” also covers the sorrow of solo drinking by women excluded from bar culture, giving us a perspective that is often concealed by isolation or neglect.

These more serious matters are all handled with a light touch though, and the information added some body to the evening. Musical director and pianist Jeremy Brennan collaborated attentively with the vocals, showing good understanding of when to underscore a quiet moment, and when to pound those keys like he’s in a New Orleans blues bar to drive the tunes to exuberant highs.

Together, Brennan, Marsden and Wood are the olive brine, gin and vermouth of a Dirty Martini; in Mother’s Ruin they deliver a salty, spicy and stimulating experience, and one taste is just not enough. Ladies and Gintlemen, tonight’s your last chance to see Mother’s Ruin at Melbourne Cabaret Festival 2016. Let’s hope it’s not too long until our next tipple of this act. Cheers!

Melbourne Cabaret Fringe 2016 – Mother’s Ruin: A Cabaret about Gin
The Butterfly Club, 5 Carson Place, Melbourne
Performance: Saturday 18 June 2016 – 8.30pm
Season continues to 19 June 2016

For more information, visit: for details.

Image: Maeve Marsden and Libby Wood are Mother’s Ruin (supplied)

Review: Jason Whyte