Barefoot Cabaret at QPAC’s Cremorne Theatre on Friday night was a treat, a delight and an education in the seminal cabaret of Germany’s Weimar Republic between the World Wars. Unfortunately for you, dear Reader, it was a one night stand.
The perfect way to start a delightful weekend, Annie Lee had as laughing at a range of human foibles, recoiling in horror at our cruelty and shedding tears of sympathy for the broken hearted among us.
Featuring the less well known songs of Joachim Ringelnatz and Agnes Bernell against a background of Brecht and Weil, Annie Lee’scharmed us with her deceptively unassuming stage manner and then broke our heart with that of the Soldier’s Wife, stirred our empathy with tales of heartache and shocked us with the horror of OOpla.
Her rendering of Windmills of Your Mind was captivating and surreal. It cyclic theme was amplified and dramatized in Carousels and Ferris Wheels.
This is familiar ground to Brisbane cabaret lovers, Annie Lee promoted Agnes Bernell’s work in her Diangling My Tootsies at the Power House three years ago, she has since worked both Bernell and Ringelnatz work into a range of performance pieces, filling out many people’s scant knowledge of these larger than life characters.
Annie Lee spent a reasonable amount of the short hour, filling in our knowledge of Bernell’s life as a young woman in Berlin’s cabaret scene, who fled Nazism to London then Dublin, where she worked in theatre and cabaret well into her seventies. A firm friendship began which has lead to Lee carrying the torch for Bernell and hence the traditions of the Weimar Cabaret.
Some of you may know Annie Lee as one of the Kransky Twins, a popular and long lived cabaret act on Australia’s Festival circuit.
Multi instrumentalist Sallie Campbell provides the music, on a range of instruments, unobtrusive when she needs to be, complementing the spoken word as appropriate and building the more powerful numbers in the musical masterpieces they are.
That two humans can fill a theatre with such humour, humanity and emotion is a tribute to the artform, their long career together and their skills.
Cabaret, according to Lee, is a clever way to tell the truth. It is an artform of the people that expresses the real, human struggle ignored or crushed, sometimes deliberately by those in power. It’s use of humour, sex and song to raise the truth to the pinnacles of both joy and art disarms the audience and transports us.
The powerful cannot always be fooled for long. Lee reminds us that many cabarettists were declared decadent by the Nazis and prevented from working in Europe. Agnes Burnell flight to Britain and work for the British in the war are one of the rare positive outcomes from that decree.
For those Brisbanites having a night off from the headlong rush toward the end of another financial year, the joy and wonder of a brilliant performance was escapism of the most satisfying kind.
Keep your eyes and ears out for Annie Lee and Sallie Campbell. Give your intellect, your emotions and your love of the arts a little exercise in a warm and witty setting. Get to the cabaret.