Peaches – review

Meltdown, Queen Elizabeth Hall, London

Berlin-based artist, rapper and sex educationalist Peaches thrives on confrontation and subversion. On an average night in her company, that involves a lot of swearing, gender-blurring and frank discussion of genitalia; for this gig at Meltdown, it meant demonstrating her abiding love of the 1971 Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice rock opera, Jesus Christ Superstar, by performing its nine principal parts and motley supporting characters herself. This isn't just hubris: it's a messiah complex in overdrive.

But she pulls if off, mainly because her performance is wholehearted in its reverence. She takes such care over her characterisation, softening her voice for Mary Magdalene, roughening it for Jesus, introducing a whining note of anxiety for Judas, that each individual emerges clearly. And although her movements are simple – mostly she poses like a Pentecostal preacher, arms outstretched and feet stepping stiffly from side to side – her face is enjoyably animated throughout, eyebrows beetling in moments of earnest emotion, chin jutting whenever a Roman is about, features melting with hope as Mary thinks adoringly of Jesus.

Is it enough to fill a room as big as the Queen Elizabeth Hall? Just about. Without the distraction of laser lights and outrageous props, there's plenty of space to appreciate the piano arrangements (by Peaches' equally confrontational and subversive friend, Chilly Gonzales, but performed here by Mathias Halvorsen), which cleverly blend key idioms from Andrew Lloyd Webber's orchestrations – the ragtime that accompanies Herod's mocking confrontation, the AOR balladry of Mary's signature song, I Don't Know How to Love Him – with a frenetic drama and delicacy of their own. The purity of the endeavour, the total absence of irony, means the show frequently becomes mind-boggling – but it's by playing it straight that Peaches challenges her audience most.

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Maddy Costa

The GuardianTramp

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