An ominous fog, caught in the glint of naked lightbulbs, silhouettes the ascendantly coiffured figure of Marie Antoinette: there is the sense that an event is about to occur. As she takes the keyboard, however, this promise quickly dissipates. After an almost bewilderingly poor start, Anya Anastasia's Torte e Mort: Songs of Cake and Death struggles, and ultimately fails, to recover and ends having fulfilled little of its considerable potential.
Torte e Mort's opening number is the first in a series of near-misses for the production. Listing the “many ways to lose your head”, the song is a patchwork of weak puns that fail to land on even an ironic level. The music is solid throughout, if not remarkable, but the clumsily constructed lyrics, crammed into bars fit to burst, with no regard for rhythm, always retain focus.
The flat jokes grow increasingly tiresome as the show wears on, and though the variety elements interspersed between numbers offer some reprieve, none is developed enough to enhance the production in any meaningful way. A clumsy foray into shadow puppetry is condemned by awkward sightlines, and a short dance sequence, though visual striking, is disappointingly insubstantial.
Glimmers of Anastasia's impressive vocal abilities make the show's failings all the more frustrating. In the briefest of moments, her talent shines through, but the sub-par soundtrack offers her voice little opportunity to display its full capabilities.
Among this mess of ill-conceived songs and half-baked ideas, there is the kernel of a solid show. The visuals are impressive, and the talent is undoubtedly there, but Torte e Mort ultimately lets itself down with an abundance of weak material and fatal lack of purpose.