Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

Loved every minute and can’t wait to go again.

CABARET

Coleg Ceredigion , Castle Theatre Aberystwyth , September-05-18
CABARET by Coleg Ceredigion For me, going to watch any show directed by Carl Ryan is like a trip to Alton Towers; you agree to go months in advance, a few days before you repeatedly use the words “this seemed like a good idea at the time”, once you’re there you’re scared, excited and taken outside of your comfort zone but afterwards, you reluctantly admit that you loved every minute and can’t wait to go again. If this isn’t ‘proper theatre’ then I don’t know what is.
Our venue for this production is the historic Castle Theatre in Aberystwyth and upon arrival, the audience are greeted by a scantily clad Jordan Ainslee Rogers and I hear someone mutter behind me, “Ah this is one of them immersive theatre things….”. That’s not a bad description to be fair as Rogers’ little cameo sets the scene (and the tone!) perfectly for the evening.
As we are led to our cabaret style seating (what else?!), the music is loud and the lighting is minimal, putting the audience slightly on edge as they contemplate what might be in store. Cue the opening number – a polished, energetic and thought-provoking rendition of ‘Wilkommen’, during which I complete a little tradition of mine where I select the first member of the ensemble to catch my eye and then follow his or her journey for the whole show. On this occasion, I am instantly drawn to Rebecca Riches who plays Helga. She is fierce, completely committed to every dance move and whilst everyone on the stage is performing at a ridiculously high level, I can tell from the outset that she is a force to be reckoned with and my instincts prove to be right as she is sensational throughout the production, despite having a relatively minor role.
The focal point of the performance is, as per the 1966 musical, the seedy Kit Kat club during the rise of the Nazis in the early 1930s. The story focuses around the relationship between American writer Cliff Bradshaw (played extremely competently by Bradley Leonard) and cabaret performer Sally Bowes. Jessica Jeavons is our leading lady and does a sterling job, especially her rousing rendition of “Cabaret” in the second half.
The traditional sub-plot of the romance between Fräulein Schneider and Herr Schultz is delivered impeccably by Milly Anne McAvoy and Osian Harries. McAvoy, in particular, shines during ‘Married’ and it’s worth remembering that these characters are generally played by actors about three times the age of these guys which makes the integrity they bring to the roles so much more impressive.
As with all Carl Ryan productions, the chorus and the smaller roles are the foundation upon which the lead protagonists are able to build their roles. There are solid performances from Jay Boswell (who plays Max, the owner of the Kit Kat Club) and also Harriet Evola-Quinn who plays Fräulein Kost, but it is the club performers who are the glue that hold the production together and Izzy Burkitt, Zoe Lister, Jade Evans, Abby Griffiths and, amongst others, the aforementioned Rebecca Riches, are on point throughout the performance.
Having said that, whilst the whole cast (including the excellent live band) are outstanding, the limelight is stolen somewhat by two performers of whom I have seen very little previously, Lex Urry and Tristan Clemas. Remember these names!
Urry plays the Master of Ceremonies in the Kit Kat Club and is simply stunning from his first entrance, to his death at the hands of the Nazis in the final scene. He commands the stage with an air of David Walliams, but he is clearly an actor who embraces the concept of ‘stagecraft’ and the accoutrements and layers to his performance are a sight to behold, epitomised by his very special take on ‘If You Could See Her’.
Clemas plays the dual role of Ernst Ludwig and Bobby, two very different characters which give him the opportunity to show his dexterity, versatility, sense of humour and, most importantly, commitment to the cause. I say this because Clemas is involved in most of the show’s more controversial, homoerotic scenes, but delivers them with complete sincerity and sensitivity. I’ll explain my “most importantly” description shortly but I was massively impressed by this young man and at just 17 years of age, am already convinced he has a bright future ahead of him.
So that just leaves the director, Carl Ryan. In a previous review I used the words “If you’re not living on the edge you’re taking up too much space”, and then went on to say that he doesn’t live on the edge, he IS the edge. On this occasion he’s gone waaaaaayyyyyy beyond the edge as despite being about as open minded a reviewer as you’ll find, there were times during the evening that I felt slightly uncomfortable with some of the more sexual scenes, especially those involving solely male actors. Even writing that sentence makes me realise how unintentionally bigoted I was being but at the same time, the discomfort I was feeling was a direct indicator of the importance of what Ryan, amongst other things, sets out to achieve in his directing.
You see, unless homosexuality is normalised in theatre then it will always be regarded as something ‘less normal’ which, in the twenty first century, is unacceptable. Indeed, the final scene, where Urry stands in a gas chamber, is a timely reminder of how sections of society were persecuted and killed for their beliefs or sexuality which is why we rational, civilised and privileged theatre-goers should always embrace theatre that pushes boundaries and congratulate those who are brave enough to produce it.
So, to finish, I can do nothing but congratulate Coleg Ceredigion on yet another stunning product, and the deafening applause at the end of the evening from an audience that included people of all ages and backgrounds demonstrated just how good this show was. Top-quality acting, singing, dancing and directing coupled with humour and a powerful message delivered, in part, by playing Soft Cell’s ‘Tainted Love’? What a box ticker!

Reviewed by: Alan Rock.

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