Theatre review: Cabaret, Edinburgh

WITH a muffled roll of drums, and a dark flash of glamour, Rufus Norris’s acclaimed 2006 production of Cabaret rolls into town, just six days after he was appointed the next director of the National Theatre in London.

Will Young as Emcee in 'Cabaret'. Picture: Contributed
Will Young as Emcee in 'Cabaret'. Picture: Contributed

Cabaret - King’s Theatre, Edinburgh

* * * *

And if this terrific production is any guide, the National is in for an exciting time.

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It’s not that the production does anything revolutionary with Kander and Ebb’s great 1966 musical, for most of its length. With Will Young as a genial, naughty Emcee, presiding over the human flotsam and jetsam of the KitKat Club in 1931 Berlin, story and songs roll out in familiar style on Katrina Lindsay’s superb set of screens and ladders, with Siobhan Dillon as a gorgeously intelligent and glamorous Sally Bowles.

There’s steel, though, in the prominence given to the doomed love story of elderly landlady Fraulein Schneider and her Jewish admirer Herr Schultz, beautifully played by Lyn Paul and Linal Haft; and from there on – after Lyn Paul’s superb performance of Schneider’s great What Would You Do? – the production darkens, to as bleak and unrelenting an ending as this pre-Holocaust story will bear. There are small misjudgments, and a slight lack of vocal volume and dynamism. Yet there’s also a profound, chilling insight into how the style-victims who hang around the KitKat Club can develop a taste for Nazi chic overnight, when that becomes the only game in town; in a show that finally has the audience on its feet, applauding a story that leads us straight to the heart of the great crisis of the 20th century, and leaves us there, pondering just what we would have done, in Berlin 80 years ago.