Cabaret Interview Caro Meets Musicals & Opera Interview

Charlie Tuesday Gates: Sing For Your Life

By | Published on Thursday 26 February 2015


Although artist Charlie Tuesday Gates wouldn’t call herself a taxidermist, she has achieved acclaim for her artistic works rendered via the medium of taxidermy – you might have seen last summer’s exhibition ‘The Museum House Of Death’. Sticking with the taxidermy theme, she next week brings her latest work, a cabaret themed show starring a number of deceased creatures, to the Vault Festival.

Of course I was interested. Who wouldn’t be? I sent over some questions to to Charlie to find out more about her show, how she got into taxidermy-ing, and what all this is like, for a vegan.

CM: Can you give us an idea of what happens in ‘Sing For Your Life’?
CTG: ‘Sing For Your Life’ is about a group of outcast animals trying to put on a show to get the attention of humans. It’s a musical of misfortune, a bit like ‘X Factor’ meets ‘Pet Rescue’… apart from that the entire cast are dead…

CM: What was the inspiration for this show?
CTG: This idea has been turning over in my head for a few years but the world just wasn’t ready… Now that taxidermy has had this renaissance and entered the quasi-mainstream, I think people will be able to handle it, or at least I hope so.

The musical element developed organically through my previous live shows, performances and artwork but I wanted to use a twist on a format that the public consumes so voraciously – the talent show, sob story and winner’s journey – to say something meaningful using the popular pantomime of reality TV, turning the attention onto something that actually matters

CM: As an artist, have you always been interested in performance? Or is this new?
CTG: I studied drama and art for GCSE But I went on to do Fine Art and a degree in sculpture, however my art developed into a performance piece and the first live taxidermy show: ‘D.I.Y Taxidermy LIVE!’ Where, with audience participation we would skin and stuff an animal using only what you’d find in your kitchen cupboards. This evolved into a more grotesque game show where you could win and eat the artwork.

CM: How did your specialism in taxidermy come about? What was the first project you tackled, and why did you want to do it?
CTG: I’m no specialist in anything! Taxidermy was an accident waiting to happen to me. I was always interested in the ‘darker’ nature of things, if there was ever anything dead as a child, I was there poking it! At university people were always telling you what to do and think. When I graduated there was no one there telling me I was wrong or disgusting and I could do whatever I wanted.

The first creature I opened up was a fox that my brother found in the park on my birthday. It was the most moving experience of my life. It changed everything. Life was suddenly precious and meaningful.

I’d never read a book on the subject or watched a video. I believe that you don’t need to be an artist to be creative, or a scientist to perform your own experiments. If you really want to do something then just go for it. So long as your not hurting anyone or breaking the law.

CM: As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? Did you ever think you would end up doing taxidermy?
CTG: When I grew up I wanted to be an actress, and a singer, and a writer and an artist. That’s all I ever wanted to do… I never thought for one second that I would have a normal job, I just wouldn’t be able to cope. With a brain like mine… I also never thought I would be labelled as a taxidermist. I am an artist. Taxidermists preserve the illusion of life, I’ve always been more interested in the reality of death. Taxidermists have rules, artists jobs are only to break them, to challenge the status quo, to shine light in darkness.

CM: You are a vegan, and clearly value animals. Is it a painful process for you, having to work with dead ones?
CTG: It’s painful to see where the animals have come from and how they died. I always say a prayer and thank them for their lives. Animals are just so beautiful and precious and mean more than anyone can ever appreciate. Worse things happen to animals that are alive and that’s what gets me the most.

CM: Obviously, this show aims to entertain, but is there an element of wanting to make people think about their relationship with animals? Do you think art can have a part to play in making people treat them better?
CTG: No one wants things forced down their throat but through entertainment you can trick people into learning.. Make things fun and people will listen.

Art opens the eyes to the unseen. If people don’t see how can they care, and if people don’t care how can they change? Life is being pushed to the absolute limits. All people want is sensationalised gimmicks that don’t mean anything. Life should be about more than just a song and a dance.

CM: What’s next for you, in the near and also distant future…?
CM: This the only thing I’ve ever written so there’s lots of scope for development… a world tour, and ten year run in The West End…

‘Sing For Your Life’ is on at Vault Festival from 4-8 March. For more info and to book tickets, see this page here.