Brighton Fringe 2014
"Lady Gaga meets Brecht in this walk on the wild-side of the twentiesth century."
A Berlin Kabaret promises songs of revolution love and exile, and we certainly get our fair share of anti-war songs by Bertolt Brecht and Hans Eisler.
Most of these songs will not be familiar to a mainstream audience; they are full of darkness and Brecht’s penetrating and often cutting views of the unfolding German empire and the processes of war. There’s satire, darkness, pain and anger alongside satire and comedy.
The songs are well choreographed, delivered consistently well by a talented cast. Live music from off stage adds to the atmosphere in the Warren though the few cabaret tables at the front in a raked seating space felt a bit tokenistic and detracted from that mood.
The actors wear dark-clownish makeup and it needs to be done more precisely; it was hard to see the emotions of the faces of the performers. Some songs are carried brillianty, in others the performers seem less tightly coordinated, or able to carry the emotional weight of the words and music. But its all never less than good, often stellar.
As the hour unfolds, over twenty songs are packed in, in a continuous performance that sometimes reaches physically right into the aisles and around the cabaret tables. I guarantee you’ll recognise at least a couple of the songs and its a strength that they have chosen songs that all allow for theatrical interpretation and chronicling of an era.
For a show like this to work, we need more than capable singers, working fluently as an ensemble as well as able to hold a solo song. In A Berlin Kabaret we have all of these things. What we sometimes lack is a clear enough narrative flow through the choice of songs. I felt a bit lost on occasions. It might be that the choice is deliberately quirky. I’m not so sure. I think we need to be offered a little more guidance, as the songs do range through the decades. A little more dramaturgy would help.
The huge strength lie in the performers, the delivery, and the music itself, invoking darker times with humour and emotional power.