Australian audiences cannot get enough of Club Kabarett, Bernie Dieter’s bawdy homage to Weimar-punk. After a sold-out season in Sydney in March and again in August, this bombastic spectacular has arrived at the Magic Mirrors Spiegeltent at Queen Victoria Market with high expectations and well-deserved fanfare.
It’s easy to see why Dieter’s award-winning show has garnered such esteem since touching down in Australia earlier this year. Less than two minutes in and our M.C., Bernie has thrown off her tartan dress to reveal glittery tights and feather-tipped shoulder pads. Soon after, she’s straddling an audience member and enlisting the help of two others – lovingly named ‘Shaven Haven’ and ‘Silver Fox’ – to carry her back to the stage in the splits. The fourth wall is not so much brought down, as elegantly side-stepped by her sky-high stiletto heel.
All the while, Bernie’s quick-wit and dirty mouth find comedic beats in the unlikeliest – or, as it were, the most unwilling – of audience members. "Tonight is about letting loose, letting go, and getting a little bit more intimate with each other" she croons before dismissing her handlers. What follows is a 100-minute feast for the eyes.
Beneath the Spiegeltent’s technicoloured fairy lights, a diverse array of spectacular performers deliver acts that are as aesthetically pleasing as they are thrilling. Each act elegantly straddles the line between carefully curated danger, sex-appeal and cirque-style acrobatics. From the aerial stunts of The Two Fathoms (Jack Dawson and Reed Kelly), the pyrotechnics of Jacqueline Furey or the uproarious insult- comic stylings of Yorkshire drag queen, Myra Dubois, the show has assembled the best of Berlin and beyond.
With each act, Club Kabarett continues the radical queerness of its namesake, emphasising a diverse set of performers and styles taken straight out of Weimar Germany and revitalised with a modern flare. There is an element of danger retained from the Weimar age as well as signature BDSM bodices, spiked stilettos, bejewelled lingerie and unapologetic confidence.
It calls out unsolicited phallic images, celebrates nudity, and sings a bawdy homage to gin with uncensored abandon. Confidently executed, both technically and stylistically, the comedic beats land perfectly, transitions are made seamless, and stunts are performed with an air of elegance. It is a well-oiled – or should I say well-lubricated – machine, and the team behind it, both onstage and off, are in perfect sync.
The resident Vier Band follow each performer with a keen eye and their underscoring is the perfect complement to stand up sets and audience riffing. Stage Manager Sara Platts is nearby at all times to catch a rogue silver hula hoop, offer a sequined bra or move set pieces with near-inhuman speed. All the while, Darcy Cook and Lewis Spragg control lighting and sound with expert attentiveness and an obvious joy for the show. It’s true that no audience member is safe in this 100-minute spectacular, but in the hands of such capable performers and crew, any danger is carefully controlled.
It’s unsurprising to note that, because of audience demand, Club Kabarett has added more late-night shows to its season. I happened to attend the first such additional show. Despite a less-than-full audience, back-to-back performances and a rushed turn around between them, there was no dip in the cast’s energy, nor the energy in the room. Applause, laughter, and occasional gasps quickly filled the Spiegletent, while every aerial feat and acrobatic stunt proved an indelible testament to the cast’s athleticism.
Meanwhile, Bernie’s dulcet tones and powerful belts showed no signs of faltering. For each show, audiences can choose from Ring-side, Posh, or General Admission seats. These labels refer to a different time of admission and – considering there is a noticeable price difference between the categories – some may expect more bang for their buck. Still, no matter how they enter the Spiegletent, audiences leave it with a smile and a story to tell.
Rest assured, Club Kabarett will hold you on a razor’s edge between titillation and awe that’ll leave you just enough time in-between gasps to applaud.