Tag Archives: Cabaret

Review: How to Win Against History by Gemma Treharne-Foose

 

(5 / 5)

If you’ve never heard of the 5th Marquess of Anglesey or Henry Cyril Paget – that’s exactly what his family intended to happen when they erased him from their family history by burning every photograph and possession relating to his life.

Based on true story, this completely original production pieces together the charred remains and distant memories of the 5th Marquess of Anglesey – a cross-dressing dandy who inherited the keys to the kingdom in Victorian Britain, but lived fast and died young.

At one time the richest man in Britain, he rejected the duties of his title to live an outrageously opulent and controversial life, putting on elaborate plays, building over the chapel on the family estate to build a theatre and tour Europe with his ‘Electric Butterfly Orchestra’ – with himself as the leading artist, of course.

This is a fabulously foppish flight of fancy that will have you belly laughing from lights up until lights down.

The Marquess of Anglesey was an unapologetic narcissist, who if born in more recent times would no doubt be the subject of a gaudy commercial deal, a magazine spread or a reality TV series. But although the production pokes fun at the story, it is never cruel.

How to Win Against History is a high-camp, high energy extravaganza, subverting the almost homoerotic goings on within public schools, the aristocracy and the Empire.

Starring Seiriol Davies who plays (or should I say ‘slays’) as Henry Paget, this show chasses, minces and shimmies its way through his back story, shining a light on the social awkwardness of Victorian times, the absurdity and pomposity of theatre and the sheer hilarity of being a square peg in a round hole.

Matthew Blake plays the part of Paget’s right hand man – the Victorian west end actor Alexander Keith and the pair have incredible chemistry and comic timing. Every movement, sigh and flick of the hand is played up and milked for laughs.

Imagine a show featuring Lawrence Llywelyn-Bowen’s lovechild on acid at Mardi Gras, mashed up with Monty Python, Downton Abbey and Ru Paul’s Drag Race. That wouldn’t even come close to how remarkable this is.

Despite the madcap silliness and outrageousness though, it’s a show with substance and heart. Seiriol Davies has created something quite heartfelt and poignant, the music and lyrics are sharp and clever and the incredible vocal performances of the trio on stage meander from genre to genre.

You really want Henry Paget to win and the way audiences are responding to this production shows that in the end – he has.

Some lights are too bright to ever be distinguished.

REVIEW CABARET ((RICHARD BURTON COMPANY) RWCMD BY JAMES BRIGGS

(4 / 5)

Audio review of the production with music from the production

‘Cabaret’ is highly regarded as being one of the greatest musicals of all time and has some magnificent songs and fascinating characters, it also has a strong compelling and highly political storyline with a message from history that can’t be ignored. Set in Berlin on the eve of World War Two in the 1930’s, it shows the rise of the Nazis against the apathy of the masses, and describes a change that would prove to have terrifying consequences for everyone who lives in Berlin. Most of the story unfolds in the seedy ‘Kit Kat club’.

I was not sure of what to expect when attending the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama for this production as I had only heard some of the songs from the musical and was unfamiliar with the storyline, so I must admit when the house lights dimmed and the characters began to enter the stage to the song ‘Willkommen’ I was slightly perplexed at the characters in front of me and their stage presence especially only being 17.

For many, including my mother who I attended the show with, imprinted on their mind was the film version of the musical starring Liza Minnelli as Sally Bowles, Joel Grey as the compère and Michael York as the young Englishman.
The stage show opens with the arrival of a young American, Cliff Bradshaw (played by Jonathan Radford) in Berlin on New Year’s Eve 1930. In a chance meeting at the railway station, he’s becomes friends with the very polite and helpful Ernst Ludvig (played by Tom Corbishley) who refers Cliff to Fraulein Schneider’s lodging house while he is staying in Berlin. Later in the story, Cliff is introduced to the ‘Kit Kat Club’, a cabaret club where anything can happen. He meets Sally Bowles, a singer who escapes reality when performing her songs in the club.

Set against Cliff and Sally’s relationship, and the relationship between Fraulein Schneider and her Jewish fiancée, the Nazis start to show their might and their threat is felt by all at both the unassuming lodging house and the Kit Kat Club. Adena Cahill as the upper class English Sally Bowles is very good. Fraulein Schneider was played by the believable Rosie Archer whose characterisation was excellent as well as that of Dafydd Gape who played the kind, caring and helpful Herr Schultz. Jennifer Ruth-Adams who played Fraulein Kost was able to do this very well and produced some comical scenes when trying to get her sailor lovers out of the lodging house without Fraulein Schneider finding out.

However, for me the star of the show was Corey Jones as Emcee, whose performance was outstanding and whose stage presence was simply mesmerising and as soon as he entered the stage you could not take your eyes off him. Jones’ Emcee was extremely dark and edgy with an exceptionally strong character and you were never quite sure if he was simply a welcoming host, or one that really despises all people.

Corey Jones as Emcee

Photographic credit Kirsten Mcternan

The level of the singing in the production was brilliant and there was not one character that slipped out of their German or American accents. It felt as though I was in Berlin watching the show. The performance of ‘Tomorrow Belongs to Me’ by Ross Hoey as a young Nazi was very chilling and this was made more powerful when the Nazi flags dropped down on each side of the stage. With well-known songs such as ‘Maybe This Time’, ‘Cabaret’ and ‘Mein Herr’ it is sometimes difficult to live up to audience expectations but the cast of this production surpassed themselves. The band that played during the performance was equally exceptional and brought the music to life.

The ‘Richard Burton Theatre’ housing the performance was very fitting and gave the audience a feeling of intimacy with the characters on stage. You felt you were part of the audience in the ‘Kit Kat Club’ taking part in all the action.

The staging worked equally very well with the theatre and as one entered the theatre we were greeted by a large structure hanging diagonally on stage with simply some chairs below it. There was also a large use of period lights on chains that along with the structure moved during the performance. This was used extremely well as it gave the effect that the ‘Kit Kat Club’ was opening up in front of the audience. The minimal set worked extremely well and allowed the audience to concentrate more on the characters opposed to the surrounding.

The Entr’acte from the Musical ‘Cabaret’.

Overall, this is an utterly breath-taking performance even if it is rather risqué in parts with a chilling end but I will certainly be attending far more shows at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama because if the level of performance is always this high, you are guaranteed an amazing night at the theatre.

Type of show: Theatre
Title: Cabaret
Venue: Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama
Dates: 22-30 June
Director: Paul Kerryson
Music: John Kander
Lyrics: Fred Ebb
Musical Director: Nathan Jones
Choreographer: Tom Jackson Greaves
Set Designer: Tina Torbay
Lighting Designer: Becky Heslop
Costume Designer: Jessica Campbell Plover

Review Cabaret (Richard Burton Company) RWCMD by Helen Joy

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(4 / 5)

I go into the theatre weighed down by the recent slating on social media: in response to a comment in favour of collaborative working, I was compared to those who did nothing as Hitler rose to power. Troubling from all sides.

I hadn’t seen Cabaret for a very long time, if ever, and couldn’t say that I knew the story. Apposite as it turns out. We all know the songs but few of us know the context.

Partly it’s the space, partly it’s the artistic direction, but this is in your face from the start. And everything is in your face – teeth and tits and hips and all the grotesque of the carnival, smiling, enticing and taking you in. I watch the audience press back in their seats, personal space invaded and we are thrilled.

The story begins and like the train, rattles along happily. Two love stories unfold through song and speech – the older grocer and the landlady, the young American writer and the English show girl – against the light and dark and desperate of mid war Berlin.

The completely brilliant and mesmeric Master of Ceremonies holds each of us in his stare, winking and steely, welcoming and chilling. Better than Wayne Sleep, says my neighbour, he was evil too but ooh, this one makes me shudder. We all want him to notice us, take us into his lascivious dangerous, oh so colourful world.

Sally is sumptuous. Her voice purrs lines of love and confusion and roars and rises as the cabaret of her life is told. As it all unravels around her and the snippets of intrigue evolve into the political cabaret of Nazi Germany, we want her to leave, go to Paris with her man – but she hates Paris.

We witness the sadly comic and beautifully performed love affair of the Fraulein and the Frau over fruit and schnapps come together and fall apart and he leaves, his Jewish faith unwelcome now.

It ends. Our MC rides out with our battered journalist on his train home. He strips. His pink triangle stitched to his shirt. He folds into stage black.

I wish they sold CDs, says the lady in front of me. Oh, so do I. How much would I have relished hearing it all again on the way home. Brilliant, says another. Shocking, says someone else, hadn’t expected it to be so, well, sexual, not sure some of it was necessary. Wonderful, says a young man, reeling slightly.

I am reeling too. How do you know when it is time to act and when it is time to wait and see what happens? Cabaret.

Type of show: Theatre
Title: Cabaret
Venue: Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama
Dates: 22-30 June
Director: Paul Kerryson
Music: John Kander
Lyrics: Fred Ebb
Musical Director: Nathan Jones
Choreographer: Tom Jackson Greaves
Set Designer: Tina Torbay
Lighting Designer: Becky Heslop
Costume Designer: Jessica Campbell Plover

REVIEW ‘CABARET’ (RICHARD BURTON COMPANY) RWCMD GEMMA TREHARNE-FOOSE

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(4 / 5) Very Good!

Whatever is in the water in the Royal Welsh College of music and drama, I want some of it for myself. Despite being a fan of many years of the soundtrack for the musical and Liza Minnelli’s legendary portrayal of Bowles in the film version – I hadn’t until tonight seen the full stage version of the production.

The musical tells the story of the seemingly wild and carefree days of Berlin in the 1930s and the outrageous goings on at the Kit Kat club, a place where the harshities of the rise of right wing ideology and the slow tentacles of anti-Semitism and Nazism will eventually bring the party to an end. Until then, as the fabulously quirky emcee reminds us: ‘Outside your life is disappointing….in here, life is beautiful!’

For those who are unfamiliar with the usual style of the musical, the usual depictions are famous for some of iconic choreographer Bob Fosse’s trademarks – bowler hats, canes. gloves, black clothes, wooden chairs, a smoky vintage jazz club, waistcoats, stockings and sleek buns. This production has turned the classic Cabaret on its head. It gives us 50 shades of sass. It has been dry humped by Beyonce and licked by Miley Cyrus. If as I did, you should see this show with your Mam, she may disapprove of the sexy stuff – far too many open legs and bending over perhaps. This may of course encourage you to like it even more. Corey Jones’ uninhibited performance may make your Nan or you Mam blush, but he and the cast execute Tom Jackson Greave’s choreography beautifully. I loved the freshening and brightening up of Jessica Campbell Plover’s costume design: flashes of pink bra or turquoise stockings and some strategically placed PVC bondage tape, a sweep of Adam-ant style eye make-up brought some a more modern and edgy look to the cast. The look and feel in the Richard Burton theatre was fresh and industrial – pendant lights lowering and raising up to complement the mood and pace of the songs, a cage wall which will remind you of the musical and film ‘Chicago’ and a stripped down feel rather than focussing solely on the style of the 1920s/30s.

Although the role of Sally Bowles can be a difficult one to pull off once you have seen Liza Minnelli mic drop it in the 1972 film version, Adena Cahill’s vocals are incredible and her performance of the song ‘ Maybe this time’ was blinding. Special mention also to Rosie Archer as Freulein Schneider and Dafydd Gape as Herr Schultz for their sweet portrayal of a blossoming relationship than never has an opportunity to come to fruition. The story of the play is as relevant in 2016 as it was when the play was first performed in the 60s, during a time of great civil unrest in the US. Politics and all the ugliness that comes with it is absolutely about us all, whether we realise it or not. At one point, Nazi sympathiser Ernst Luvig (played by Tom Corbishley) tells exasperated American Clifford Bradshaw (played by Jonathan Radford): “Enough politics…what does it matter anyway?”. Sally poo-poos Clifford and encourages him run an errand for the Nazis, as it’s ‘nothing to do with them anyway’. The friends and associates we think we know…we actually don’t. But life is a Cabaret and the show goes on, eventually. As Fraulein Schneider tells Cliff about all the hardships she previously encountered: ‘I survived’. It’s a message worth remembering this last week, especially.

I doff my bowler hat and wave my jazz hands excitedly in the direction of the Royal Welsh College. The show was a little bit saucy and a little bit rude…and I for one found it bloody ‘wunderbar’.

Type of show: Theatre
Title: Cabaret
Venue: Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama
Dates: 22-30 June
Director: Paul Kerryson
Music: John Kander
Lyrics: Fred Ebb
Musical Director: Nathan Jones
Choreographer: Tom Jackson Greaves
Set Designer: Tina Torbey
Lighting Designer: Becky Heslop
Costume Designer: Jessica Campbell Plover