Theatre review: Cabaret

Will Young in Cabaret. Picture: PA
Will Young in Cabaret. Picture: PA
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IT’S 1931 and springtime for Hitler, the Nazis are on the cusp of power and Mein Kampf is doing well in the book charts. The skies are darkening for the misfits of downtown Berlin’s Kit Kat Club but they’re determined to keep the party going at all costs, particularly good-time girl Sally Bowles.

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The King’s Theatre

That is until Clifford Bradshaw walks into her life and tries to inject a little reality into the gilded whirl of parties, drugs and fluid sexual mores she indulges in.

Starring Will Young as Emcee and How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria runner-up Siobhan Dillon as Sally, the production focuses heavily on the impending rise of the Third Reich and the effect it will have on the small band of people around Cliff and Sally.

The first act builds slowly, director Rufus Norris giving the actors acres of room to really explore their characters and convey the meaning of their songs. It works well in some places, in others, the tempo falters significantly.

Dillon’s Sally is at first most reminiscent of Kate Bekinsale’s Flora Poste in Cold Comfort Farm, it’s easy to envisage her gadding about country houses and dashing down to London for japes but hard to really get to access her vulnerability, the English Rose-style of her presentation getting in the way of the bawdy nature of the story. As the finale looms, however, her performance of Cabaret and goodbye to Cliff carry a unexpectedly weighty pathos.

Matt Rawle’s Cliff is an interesting counterpart, while well suited to playing opposite each other, there doesn’t seem to be the confrontational spark that really makes an on stage relationship fly. Will Young captures perfectly the seedy, smarmy nature of the Emcee and imbues the character with a tantalising creepiness. Credit must go Lyn Paul’s poignant portrayal of Fraulein Schneider and Linal Haft’s philosophical love interest Herr Schultz, who paint a wonderfully understated picture of older love. What stands out about the production is a sense of unsentimental dignity, which brought the audience to their feet in applause as the final curtain fell.

• Run ends October 26