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Review: Weimar Cabaret, Barbican

PUBLISHED: 14:23 17 July 2018 | UPDATED: 14:23 17 July 2018

Barry Humphries in Weimar Cabaret

Barry Humphries in Weimar Cabaret

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Barry Humphries plays himself as the witty erudite host of the decadent entertainment of 1930s Berlin

Barry Humphries’ Weimar Cabaret,

Barbican

The last time I saw Barry Humphries on stage was as Edna Everage and she was flinging out gladioli to her appreciative audience. In his cabaret, monstrous Dame Edna is replaced by Humphries as himself. Suave in claret velvet smoking jacket, he is a witty and erudite host who shares with the audience his passion for the decadent entertainment of 1920’s and 30’s Berlin.

In the late 1940’s, a schoolboy Humphries bought a collection of German sheet music in a second-hand shop in Melbourne.

The composers bore unfamiliar names, and Humphries’ research confirmed that their work had been banned as “degenerate” by the Nazis.

It’s this music that Humphries has curated into a tribute to the forgotten composers. He introduces each by name, giving piecemeal anecdotes about their lives and their works. Many of them were Jews; several perished in the Holocaust, others escaped and went on to work in Hollywood.

The Aurora Orchestra performs the music of Ernst Krenek, Mischa Spoliansky, Erwin Schulhoff et al with great panache.

It’s a truly eclectic programme: from the jazzy and jolly through tango to tear-jerking... and even an early form of rap.

The orchestra is led by the supremely talented violinist Satu Vanska; she also sings like an angel.

The ambiance is relaxed, very much like a night club, especially when seductive Australian chanteuse Meow Meow appears.

With the smouldering looks of a young Joan Collins, OTT costumes and an amazing voice, she vamps it up shamelessly.

Her performance of Schulhoff’s Sonata Erotica (think of that naughty scene in When Harry Met Sally ) is beyond hilarious.

An illuminating evening - enjoyable, funny and moving.

Barry Humphries’ Weimar Cabaret runs at Barbican until July 29. (0845 120 7511)

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