Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Cabaret - Richmond Theatre

Cabaret By Kender & Ebb
Director: Rufus Norris
Choreographer: Javier De Frutos
Reviewer: Ann Bawtree

This is a performance everyone should see. Its message for the politically complacent is compelling. Although it is of mixed parentage, Bill Kenwright’s production holds together as two love stories set in the raunchy atmosphere of a 1931 Berlin nightclub. This is the Birmingham Repertory Theatre Company’s tour after the West End.

With Wayne Sleep as the Kit-Kat club’s MC they are off to a head start and those who know him as a dancer will not be disappointed. He makes a play of his less than average height by having as his attendant an immensely tall dominatrix of a girl who obviously despises him.

Samantha Barks, is the leading lady Sally Bowles, and although still in her teens, if she does not have a glittering career after this it will be because she does not want one. Her leading man, played by Henry Luxemburg is the pie in the sky, aspiring author, unprepared for the nastiness of some people such as Karl Moffat’s character who, like Henry, has played in pantomime. How actors can change their spots.

The other couple, played by Jenny Logan and Matt Zimmerman rescue what could be pure schmaltz by tender sincerity. The treacherous beauty upstairs in the lodgings is played by the statuesque Suanne Braun who has not let the burning sun of her homeland get at her peaches and cream complexion.

The chorus are excellent. Classical dance training shows and choreographer Javier de Frutos makes good use of it. One girl has difficulty in looking sufficiently debauched but that probably means she is the wickedest of them all. Another deception is the innocent, childlike singing of Theo Cook evoking shadows of The Sound of Music.

There are warnings of nudity and Aadult scenes but they are not gratuitous. The S&M is either amusing pranks or so shadowy it is almost imaginary. How old do you have to be to be instantly aware of the significance of the final scene?

Possibly more offensive to some might be the nun’s habit of Sally Bowles first costume and maybe others would find the flashing night club lights a trial. There is also a warning that it is unsuitable for the under 13s. The political points would be lost and they would just laugh at the bottom smacking. They might also be disappointed that the club does not involve chocolate.

Katrina Lindsay’s Kit-Kat club set changes to the bare room occupied by the impoverished author simply by the removal of all lights and the arrival of a plain iron bedstead. Jean Calman manages the glittering nightclub and the effect of one forty watt bulb at the flick of a switch. The threatening gloom of the railway station both sets the scene at the start of the story and concludes it as apparently the same place but essentially different.

The costumes of the nightclub girls are at once erotic and elegant but Miss Barks= dresser must ensure that her stocking seems are straight. A trifling matter to some but not to those who have struggled themselves. It is a pity that the necessary sound desk has to take up seats in the auditorium as full houses are predicted for the rest of the run at Richmond for this highly successful show. The technical team of over thirty are too numerous to mention individually as are the jazz octet under the direction of Tom de Keyser.

We leave the theatre wondering with the characters has politics anything to do with us?

Cabaret runs at the Richmond Theatre until Sat 9th May
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