It’s surely a mark of the weird integrity of this eccentric production that creator Charlie Tuesday Gates didn’t just honour Fringe logic and call it something more marketable like ‘Taxidermy! The Musical’. Because that’s what it is: a ‘naughty puppets’ musical in the ‘Avenue Q’ lineage, except the puppets are actually taxidermied roadkill with boggly cartoon eyes sewn on.
If that sounds in bad taste, well it is a bit, but Gates is a vegan, and improbable as it may seem, this gross-out comedy performed with dead animals is in fact pro-animal rights in a big – if slightly strange – way.
The plot revolves around a neglected dog, whose odious owner chucks him out one evening, leading to him going for a wander and discovering an oddball cabaret show run by a self-centred fox and a lecherous badger. Substantially speaking, ‘Sing for Your Life’ revolves around the bickering, foul-mouthed beasts of the show, as they argue with and bully each other, occasionally breaking off to belt out a turn – usually a vintage pop standard with morbid new lyrics about that creature’s ill-treatment at the hands of man.
To be honest, unless you’re extremely squeamish, you’ll almost certainly find it more funny than anything else: it is very silly, very sweary, and the animals are actually quite sweet looking (or I thought so, anyway). The sole exception is the mink burlesque dancer, who comes on stage first in her coat and then, horrifyingly, skinned. It’s a really grim, visceral moment, a gut-wrenching reminder of the extreme cruelty of the fur trade. Otherwise the show is just a good, slightly one-note laugh, in which a lot of the appeal comes from watching the puppeteers try and keep straight faces. But you know, let’s not get too blasé here: this is almost certainly the best taxidermy musical you'll ever see.