Cabaret!

Wed 7th – Sat 10th March 2012

reviews

Aarti Shankar

at 08:57 on 8th Mar 2012

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There was a cabaret. And if you don’t know the story, expect the unexpected: it’s a lot darker and more sinister than the title gives away. And the Collingwood actors really don’t let you sit easy in your seats. They throw you right into the club atmosphere, even before the start of the play, milling around in their flapper getup right in front of the audience, and then it begins. And with a well-executed, flamboyant first number, all of a sudden you are in the extravagant world of the cabaret. Though it is worth noting now that the singing well outshone the dancing throughout the entire show - confident and stunning as the Kit Kat girls were, the dances sometimes seemed a little unpolished.

But there is one pair whose acting and singing completely stole the show: Herr Lutz, played by Joe Rothwell, and Frauline Schneider, played by Nikki Dravers, whose beautiful and adorable love story had to have caught the hearts of even the most unemotional members of any audience. Forget Sally Bowles (who reminds you SO much of Renée Zellwegger it’s a little scary at times) and Cliff Bradshaw, whose story just comes across too forced and overplayed in comparison to the sweet relationship between Holtz and Schneider – every girl is going to want a pineapple by the end of the play. Still, that’s where most of the fun ends and the sinister undertone starts to sink in.

To be fair, the introduction and the intensification of the theme of Nazism was so subtle that, when its prominence was discovered, you felt as if they had taken you back in time to when the Germans themselves first recognized the extent of their power. And that was unsettling. In fact, the character of Ernst Ludwig, played by Cole Sims, was so convincing (safe to say he had the best German accent of the night) and so steely that when I spotted him after in the bar, I was genuinely still a little nervous of him – that’s a compliment to his performance though! It really hits you after the interval, where the reintroduction performance by the exuberant Kit Kat girls transforms into a mechanical Nazi march – the director, Sian Green, did a brilliant job of showing how Nazism infiltrated and took over every section of Berlin: the audience genuinely went silent with shock. And again, when the Nazis vandalize Herr Lutz fruit shop – genuinely the slickest effect of the night – and again when the fun of a gorilla on stage (yes, a gorilla!) turns into the disturbing and profound message of how the Jews were viewed as revolting animals.

The end was a world away from the start, with a legion of mechanical footsteps forming the background to a despairing song – Nazism had taken over. So yes, the play really took the audience by the collar and forced us to see the reality of society; and yes the acting was good overall; and yes, the stage design and the band were phenomenally impressive (though perhaps a little too loud during some songs); but something about the play made you unsure – did I really enjoy it or was I a little disturbed? Then again, that was the point. Cabaret! isn’t all song and dance, and the Collingwood actors couldn’t have made that more clear.

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