Aletia Upstairs embodies Julia Berber – the fictional sister of Anita Berber, the historical figure famously painted in red by Otto Dix – to deliver a potent set of Weimar standards in this period-set cabaret.
A Queer Love of Dix, Hill Street Theatre, Edinburgh * * *
Upstairs cuts a striking figure in evocatively expressionistic maquillage and a period-appropriate outfit reminiscent of Dix’s paintings, which are projected onto the back of a stage as she talks and sings.
Sometimes breaking into a smattering of German, Upstairs delivers iconic numbers – including I Am a Vamp, Pirate Jenny and the Alabama Song – with resonant clarity and a biting intent aligned with her stage persona, which is both formidable and wry. The rapport with the audience is engaging, if occasionally a touch stiff. There are moments when patchy lighting hinders the impact of the delivery, however.
All the same, there’s no doubting Upstairs’s commitment both to the music’s form and to its contemporary political resonances. The correspondences between the corruption, prejudices and rising authoritarianism of 1920s Germany and today’s political scene are made abundantly clear. Some songs take on a real charge: Pirate Jenny is delivered with a stinging feminist edge and the queer anthem Lavender Song gets a rousing rendition too.
Until 25 August