It's telling that a climate of austerity has fostered a thriving alternative cabaret scene that recalls the early 1980s. Unfortunately, the same era's politics of prejudice and greed have also made a comeback. Both trends have inspired a rash of independent shoe-string theatre companies to embrace such a loose-knit aesthetic and apply it to work that is instinctively dissenting in tone.
Edinburgh's Tightlaced Theatre have done exactly that in Susanna Mulvihill's production of her own all-singing, all-dancing extravaganza that looks to Berlin's Weimar era for inspiration, but which at times sounds chillingly of the moment. The setting is Anke's club on the day that Adolf Hitler has seized power. With Anke and her staff who double up as the night's acts serving drinks to the audience sat at round wooden tables, what follows feels like eavesdropping on assorted intrigues while the all night party goes on.
While hostess Simone introduces a series of subtly satirical routines performed by her 'Ratlings', who include Anke's wannabe starlet daughter, Marieke, American newshound William soaks up the scene at a table shared with his latest flame Birgit. When Anke's Nazi-smitten son Dieter shows up with his superior to survey the decadence with Captain Voehner, it marks the last gasp for a microcosm of what will follow in the world at large.
While the ghost of Cabaret looms large, Mulvihill's play remains a boisterous and acerbic look at how how hard times can cause people to look for scapegoats as they fall for extremist ideologies. Only the distraction of running several scenes concurrently mars an otherwise highly-charged political burlesque which at times feels dangerously close to home.
The Herald, January 25th 2014