The Other Palace Studio – until 18 June 2023
Reviewed by Claire Roderick
This fascinating new musical by Stephanie Martin and Calista Kazuko Georget shines a light on the passion, creativity and revolutionary spirit of six real women in Berlin between the wars.
The shifting tide of political and social tolerance, away from freedom and hedonism to much darker times, and the devastating effect on the lives of people who will never fit, or refuse to fit into “acceptable” norms, becomes ever starker as each character comes into focus for a brief snapshot of their life. Performed as a series of vignettes between songs, the musical has a wonderfully subversive cabaret atmosphere, as if the dreaded sound of jackboots and hammering on the door of the studio could come at any moment. We do not get to know each character well – and prior knowledge of these remarkable women is not really necessary (although you will probably be looking them up when you leave the theatre). Each actor has a title embroidered on their costume – the writer, the socialist etc – reinforcing the message that violence, suppression and prejudice was suffered by so many “undesirables” but never diminishing the lives of these women and their fates.
Rosie Yadid is brilliantly subversive and wild as dada Valeska Gert, Ashley Goh impresses as drag king Claire Waldoff, Danielle Steers is slick and powerful as madam Kitty Schmidt, Michal Horowicz has the least showy character, but portrays the political hope and fervour of Rosa Luxemburg impeccably. Maya Kristal Tenenbaum captures the pain of separation and fleeing her home beautifully as writer Gabrielle Tergit. Iz Hesketh was ill on press night, but the amazing superswing Charlotte Clitherow nailed the emotional impact of Anita Berber’s last song/dance, even on book. The cast’s ensemble work is great fun, with marvellous vocals and fantastic movement on this tiny stage.
Co-directors Rafaella Marcus and Karoline Gable have crafted a unique and timely show. Calista Kazuko Georget’s songs evoke a seedy cabaret in great style and Stephanie Martin’s book keeps the cabaret/ Weimar essence strong, with dialogue that could seem clunky in other productions completely on brand here. The racism and misogyny of Weimar Germany is shown through conversations with leather jacketed male characters, a wonderfully laconic encounter with Tergit’s mother and grandmother about marriage and children, and scenes with children playing that show the evolution of hate as they repeat and act out the words of their parents.
Fury and Elysium is an excitingly quirky and vibrant new musical with a powerful message – I can’t wait to see how it develops further