BWW Review: EFFIGIES OF WICKEDNESS (SONGS BANNED BY THE NAZIS), Gate Theatre
You've got to admit, "Songs Banned By The Nazis" is one helluva strapline for a show. But with that tease comes expectations - expectations gloriously fulfilled in this chaotic, crazy cabaret.
And a true cabaret is what we get - so down with that fourth wall, off with (some of) those costumes and bring on the bantz. There's plenty of showmanship, especially from the two cabaret veterans, Le Gateau Chocolat and Lucy McCormick, but there's plenty of technical expertise too, led by the opera singers, Peter Brathwaite and Katie Bray.
It's a heady mix of four marvellous voices beautifully accompanied by Phil Cornwell's band of four musicians all in a "store cupboard"-sized space that lends intimacy and threat.
Though we're in the here and now (well, we're in Margate for one song) and hearing English most of the time, Ellen McDougall's direction ensures that the vibe we get is more authentically Weimar than ersatz Kit Kat Club.
The doomed Republic's influence grows on us, as the songs progress from 1920 through to 1939, the mood changing from the Eurovisiony extolling of diversity of 1920's "Lavender Song", through to Bertholt Brecht's ferocious, fearful warnings of Germany's descent into depravity.
Rare is the show with one genuine spinetingler for us jaded hacks, but this show has two. Lucy McCormick, eyes-a-popping and cleavage-a-heaving, gives a tour de force in "Sex Appeal", a song Taylor Swift should try.
That showstopper is topped almost immediately by "Münchhausen", another Friedrich Hollaender song that provides an electrifying courageous rebuttal to the evil genius of Nazi propagandist, Josef Göbbels. Its relevance to today is almost painfully clear.
(Weimar) Cabaret is such a tough art form to get right, balancing bawdy humour with the hardest edge of satire, promoting joyful celebration of difference with a tightly controlled aesthetic, staging pantomime-ish audience participation whilst maintaining the distance that talent always pulls out between us in the house and the performers on stage. Effigies of Wickedness gets all that stuff spot on, Peter Brathwaite's brilliant idea for a show brilliantly realised.
It's probably fewer than three shows in a hundred that leave me wanting more, but this show is certainly one of those rare beasts. All-through and done in 80 minutes or so, there's plenty more songs and composers to fit the show's description that could build a two hours event with an interval.
Which just proves that those Nazis had a pretty good eye for subversive genius - and left us a handy list in their exhaustive encyclopaedia of those banned by the regime, delivered with their usual grim attention to detail.
And it's the seeds that grew differently to whom we listen today.