"There was a cabaret, and there was a master of ceremonies ... and there was a city called Berlin, in a country called Germany ... and it was the end of the world."
Fun, sexy, and fabulous daaaahling sums up Kander and Ebb’s deliciously flirty and multi award-winning Cabaret production pretty nicely.
The audience is treated to an extravagant night of naughty innuendos, exquisite corsetry, and dazzling lights. It’s the 30s in pre-WW2 Berlin and everyone is having a wonderful time it seems at the infamous Kit Kat Klub.
It’s difficult not to be entranced by the decadence and kinkiness of it all. The sheer hedonism itself is dizzying. Emcee’s scene-setting, (played by John Partridge), is perhaps hedonism personified, and serves as a great anchor to the story line. The character is for the audience’s benefit alone, seeing as there is no interaction between Emcee and the other characters in the play. Equally, Emcee’s exaggerated stage-presence is delightful, but also serves a greater purpose. Emcee reflects the indulgences of Berlin’s people, for better or for worse.
The story is set around the aspiring American novelist Cliff Bradshaw, (played by Charles Hagerty), who sees 30s Berlin through the audience’s eyes, a sexually-liberated and overwhelming city, where, perhaps unlike the US at the time, Bradshaw’s bisexuality is the least eyebrow raising thing happening. Bradshaw meets Ernst Ludwig (played by Nick Tizzard) at the station and is introduced to Fraulein Schneiders, (played by Anita Harris), the owner of a boarding house where Bradshaw takes a room. From there, we meet the characters Herr Schultz, (played by James Paterson), and Fraulein Kost, (played by Basienka Blake), (who, let’s just say, has a certain penchant for sailors).
Cliff Bradshaw meets British Singer, (Kara Lily Hayworth), at the aforementioned Kit Kat Klub, and comments poignantly on the dream-like sensation of their relationship. There’s a hypnotic sense to the scenes on stage, as the audience too, joins the couple in this dream-state.
All the while, the darkness of the Nazi party’s ever-growing presence in Germany takes hold, and the set is sent spiraling into louder, more catastrophic scenes. Emcee’s kick-line and burlesque routine is transformed to a goose-step and the once-bright lights slowly twinkle to blackness, there is an unmistakable political overtone to the play. And one that seems ever-relevant once more.
Cabaret runs at the Festival Theatre until 9 November 2019.