Cabaret Review

Festival Theatre, Edinburgh – until 9 November 2019

Reviewed by Hannah Plumb


Wilkommen and Bienvenue to Rufus Norris’s electric new tour of Tony Award winning musical Cabaret. Set in the ‘smokey, sexy’ Berlin nightclub scene, the piece begins as the clock strikes in the New Year of 1931. The story swirls in and out of the infamous Kit Kat Club ran by Emcee (John Patridge) as aspiring American novelist Cliff Bradshaw (Charles Hagerty) meets captivating cabaret star Sally Bowles (Kara Lilly Hayworth).  In the setting of their boarding house sparks fly between industrious landlady Fraulein Schneider (Anita Baker) and well-mannered grocer Herr Schultz (James Paterson) against all mounting political tension. As the piece moves into its second half and the rise of Nazism is unignorable we see the loves of those surrounding the Kit Kat change for ever as the world they know comes to an end.  

Performing as the enigmatic Master of Ceremonies, award winning actor John Patridge sets the scene in the infamously cool cabaret scene of Berlin, helping the audience to step into the world of the piece. He is assisted by Katrina Lindsay’s stage which uses the large Festival Theatre stage expertly to communicate the vastness and grittiness in this city of change. Patrdige performs perfectly as this ring master of Berlin debauchery and really bring the fun out of the piece. Which makes his performance at the end of act 2- when the grim realities of Nazism are presented even more powerful which managed to hold an audience of over 900 people in stunned silence.

All performances in this piece were fantastic and Hayworth’s rendition of the titular song left you with an optimistic melancholy that made you wish the piece would end differently. Alas, it doesn’t. Furthermore, it is this decision by Norris to not sugar coat nor gloss over the stark reality of the Nazi’s rule in Germany that really separates this production from others. This production lulls the audience into a false sense of security, the belief that they are enjoying a classic musical, whilst simultaneously edging towards the rise of the far right. A perfect metaphor really for post-Weimar Germany. Finally, when the pretence is dropped and the piece climaxes the audience is left with a horrifying tableau that keeps them in a state of unavoidable tension.  Shedding a light on the hideous reality of living in a far right, extremist society- a masterpiece.