Eddie Redmayne and Jessie Buckley shimmer and scintillate in this striking reworking of Cabaret, in the immersive surroundings of The Kit Kat Club
“Gather together to greet the storm”
There’s a lot that has gone into tempting us out from sitting in our room. Director Rebecca Frecknall and designer Tom Scutt have done an awesome job in reconfiguring the Playhouse Theatre into the risqué surroundings of The Kit Kat Club. From sweatily intimate pre-show entertainment (that could possibly benefit from a touch of crowd control) to a transformed auditorium, there’s no doubting the welcome im cabaret, au cabaret, to Cabaret…
And for the eye-wincing levels that ticket prices go up to in this first casting period, as well that welcome should be extended. There’s a lot that works supremely well in this production of John Kander, Fred Ebb and Joe Masteroff’s iconic musical. The dazzle of recognisable showtunes is stripped away to focus on the uncompromising weight of a narrative about the untrammelled rise of fascism, ostensibly in 1930s Germany but in reality, in any society at all.
Eddie Redmayne’s electrifying Emcee is a prowling presence throughout the entire show. If he’s not conducting from the stage, he’s purring into the ears of audience members, controlling and co-opting us into the ever-darkening tone. And Jessie Buckley is at times extraordinary as would-be cabaret star Sally Bowles, connecting her songs to her disintegrating mental state in a boldly awe-inspiring manner that shatters expectation.
Both performances push hard to break through convention and there are moments when it is occasionally too much, a little too weird and too cracked, this Sally’s relationship to Omari Douglas’ Clifford suffers as a result. But tenderness is there from Liza Sadovy and Elliot Levey’s late-blooming romance. And pride too, in Julia Cheng’s brilliantly individualistic choreography, until jackbooted oppression and conformity wins the day. Not worth £250 to sit in the dress circle (what could ever!) but definitely worth stalking the website obsessively for returns.