Whether or not you like the drink, Mother's Ruin: A Cabaret About Gin will send you away singing "I've Drunk Every Gin" with a spring in your step and a smile on your face. Jumping on the bandwagon of the spirit's resurgence in recent years, the creators have put together a brilliant foot-stomping musical celebration. The bar is high, as there's a great deal of gin-themed entertainment and events on offer year-round – but as the packed theatre confirmed, this popularity brings demand as well as ubiquity.
As we file in, we're greeted with a scene perfect for the cabaret's theme: a music-hall upright piano littered with bottles and glasses, played by a hipster gent (Tom Dickins). Two glamourous singers (Maeve Marsden and Libby Wood), with smoky-eyed glittery make-up and outfits mixing retro and glamour, serenade and chat to us as we're each handed a boutique G&T.
The show kicks off with a gin-infused version of the Lord's Prayer, before launching into a succession of songs and stories. There's a plentiful helping of fascinating history, re-told with emotion, reflection and satire: the darker side of the liquor isn't denied and there are some poignant, deeply moving moments, with a heart-rending ballad contrasting with the hilarity of the majority of the cabaret. Inequality, oppression, poverty and strength in the face of adversity are all explored with humour and sensitivity, but in a spirit of overcoming and celebration. In fact, the piece is every bit as much a tribute to womankind as it is to gin.
The writing is witty, the physical comedy is creative, it's well-choreographed and the three performers have fantastic comedic skills – oozing chemistry both with each other and us, playing their audience as well as their music. It's sexy, sassy, silly and funny. They're also able singers, with velvet harmonies and a diverse range of styles that include pop, vaudeville, big ballads, rock and a joyously unexpected rap; a slow a cappella number toward the end particularly showcases their vocal abilities. Pianist Tom Dickins is not just a tool for accompaniment either, he has a good voice and builds a strong rapport through his cheeky interjections and sparkling repartee.
Throughout the show the three swig from bottles large and small (the latter being regularly produced from the ladies' cleavage like it's Mary Poppins' handbag), as well as more elegant cocktail glasses. The whole affair is a delicious mixture of finesse and irreverent abandon, and as they finish on fast paced number which crams in the names of every existing gin, I leave informed and having had a riotously good time.