JOYCE MCMILLAN on 1933: EINE NACHT IM KABARETT at Summerhall, Edinburgh, for The Scotsman, 24.1.14.
3 stars ***
WHEN BOB FOSSE’s great film version of Cabaret was first released in 1972, one of the few objections to it was that the dazzling performances of its two musical stars, Joel Grey and Liza Minnelli, were far too accomplished and thrilling to capture the grubby atmosphere of the downmarket 1930’s Berlin cabaret scene in which the story is set.
And if that thought about Fosse’s film has ever troubled you, then here – for the next ten days – is a powerful and messy counter-vision of 1930’s Berlin, in the shape of this rambling two-and-quarter hour cabaret-style show at Summerhall. The scene is Anke’s bar, the occasion is the evening of the day in 1933 when Hitler became Germany’s newly-elected Chancellor; and as the evening unfolds, we watch an age of cheerfully subversive entertainment slipping away, to be replaced by the new puritan authoritarianism of the incoming Nazi government.
In Susan Mulvihill’s thoughtful but slightly repetitive script, the central part of the radical master of ceremonies, Simone, is heavily overwritten, and the whole show would gain hugely in intensity if Andy Corelli’s powerful Nazi officer, Captain Voehner, appeared earlier in the action. There’s something bold and well-sustained about this long car-crash of an evening, though, as the club pushes its luck too far, and finally goes dark for the last time. And Mulvihill’s fourteen-strong Edinburgh company play the piece to the hilt; down to the last strangely familiar reassurance that the nation’s “hard working people” will be protected, even while all of their enemies – real or imagined – are hunted down and destroyed.