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Friday, 30 August 2019

REVIEW: Cabaret at the Churchill Theatre, Bromley


To say this production of Cabaret doesn’t shy away from the darkness of the era in which it is set is an understatement. It positively embraces it. In doing so the awful rise of the Nazis is made more real and the resonances with our 21stcentury world more powerful.

Rufus Norris’s direction sets out to unsettle us. Despite the jolly banjos and honky-tonk piano in the band playing Kander and Ebb’s oh-so accessible tunes, the setting in a Berlin ‘Kabaret’, the Kit Kat Club, is unnerving from the start. John Partridge as Emcee establishes the tone as he welcomes us, peering eerily from an out-sized camera iris (a reference to I Am a Camera, the play on which the show is based). Throughout he gives a hugely committed performance, becoming more weird and perverse with each number. Like the stories about frogs gradually boiled to death by slowly heating water, we too are gradually seduced by the apparent glamour and sparkle of the entertainment he presents for us, only too late realising the awful truth about the story we are being told.

Oblivious to what’s going on around her is Sally Bowles. She blithely ignores the news and the evidence of her own eyes, simply seeing the Kit Kat club where she performs as a vehicle for her own talents. Played by Kara Lily Hayworth, we see Sally grow through her songs. Her multi-layered interpretation shows us Sally Bowles as performer, as na├»ve, as vulnerable and, in the title number towards the end of the show, as awakening to what the world is really like.
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