In 1939, as the lights went out again all over Europe, Christopher Isherwood published his record of their last flicker: the divine decadence of the 1930s Weimar Republic, where misfits partied into the dawn of Nazi darkness. His 'Goodbye to Berlin' was adapted in 1951 into this snapshot.
In a tawdry Berlin room, Isherwood the narrator struggles to become the camera of the title (quite passive, recording, not thinking) as characters pass before his lens: beautiful, rich Jew Natalia; Fritz, the broke playboy who loves her; landlady Fraulein Schneider; and Sally Bowles, cabaret star, self-declared slut and inept opportunist, who becomes Isherwood's friend.
Harry Melling, once Harry Potter's cousin Dudley Dursley, is excellent as the flaccid author. But Rebecca Humphries struggles in the shadow of Liza Minnelli, who played Sally in the 1972 film adaptation, 'Cabaret'. This coy play cringes beneath the jackboot of history, and 'Cabaret' tap-dances on its grave.
There's no trace of Isherwood's homosexuality, and the appearance of Sally's mother shoves us from Berlin's underworld into the British drawing room – a narrow escape, perhaps, for those who managed it in reality but, for an audience, a step too far out of the hot homicidal glare of the Third Reich.
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This was a beautifully acted piece of theatre, and the dialogue felt very fresh and natural. The live musical accompaniment was a nice touch too. Definitely deserves a better review than Time Out's/
Went to see Saturday evening, highly skeptical as a huge fan of both Isherwood's memoirs and the film Cabaret. How the director and cast have managed to make a play written in 1931 seem so bang up to date is beyond me. What could easily have been wordy, stiff and dated became a whirlwind of frenzy and so much fun. The central relationship entirely believable, and there wasn't a weak Iink in the supporting cast (how often can you say that of the Fringe?). And to top it off it was as though the Southwark's vault had been hand picked for the occasion echoing perfectly the Berlin club scene always alluded to but never shown. Thoroughly excellent.
Perfectly marvellous, more thoughts on my blog http://www.frontrowdress.com/2012/09/i-am-camera-southwark-playhouse.html