Halbwelt Kultur at Jermyn Street
Cabaret, alcohol, drugs, jazz and gays – hardly scandalous subjects in London today, but for the outsiders of the Weimar Republic after the First World War, this was the epitome of immorality. During the roaring 20s, Berlin was the global headquarters for these “shameless perversions”. Luckily for us, tonight seven burlesque Weimar women are transporting us back to this fabulous era of sexual liberation and creative flair, all the while doing the Charleston, tap-dancing and singing along to the finest cabaret songs as they go.
The stunning septet emerge clothed in saucy 1920s lingerie and each representing a different aspect of the era – international film star Marlene Dietrich, the cross dressing Claire Waldoff, avant-garde performers, a revolutionary, and an alcoholic drug addicted cabaret legend – all dancing towards the Nazi storm ahead that would change Germany forever.
A live band plays along as the girls seduce us with their playful charm and saucy wit in an all-singing, all-dancing performance of Take It Off, Petronella. We are reminded somewhat of Chicago’s Cell Block Tango as the seven perform There’s Nothing Quite Like Money, highlighting the economic despair and resulting famine of the Weimar Republic – “how should Jill and Jack make love on empty stomachs?”
The most touching scenes of the play highlight the persecution of gay lovers during the 1930s. A flirtatious performance of My Special Girlfriend has the audience smiling at its witty lyrics: “just last week her boyfriend had her in a whirl, that romance is over now she’s dropped him for a girl”. Scene five sees a liberating performance from Gabriella Schmidt as the gender blurring performance artist Claire Waldoff, woo-ing the girls as she entertains the crowd with her playful transformation. Claire and her lover Olga are forced to migrate when it becomes apparent they are no longer welcome in Berlin, and the crowd’s hearts are warmed by Lavender Song – “we’re not afraid to be queer and different.”
Dedicated to the LGBT community of Russia, Halbwelt Kultur could not be any more relevant to the on-going persecution many are still suffering today. Historically invigorating, liberating, charming, sexy, witty and touching, this is a show everybody should see at least once.
Halbwelt Kultur is at Jermyn Street Theatre until 15th December 2013. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.