Theatre review: I Am A Camera at Southwark Playhouse

Harry Potter star Harry Melling plays Christopher Isherwood in play that inspired Cabaret

�In the X-Factorless wilderness of Weimar Berlin people got through economic hardship by guzzling gin out of their mouthwash glasses during the day and attending illicit drinking dens at night. Well, they did if they were teenage cabaret singers or frustrated young novelists like Jean Ross and Christopher Isherwood, both of whom left their respective lives in England to live it up in European cities naughtier than their own.

But it’s not all saucers of champagne and brandy at breakfast, the rise of Nazism and persecution of the Jewish population in early 30s Berlin, platonic love between men and women, class warfare and the lure of money are all covered in John van Druten’s wittiest play.

Like the better known Kander and Ebb musical Cabaret, it’s based on Isherwood’s memoirs of both Berlin and his housemate Jean Ross, who he reinvents as the apolitical Sally Bowles. This three act piece all takes place in the house our talented twosome rent from Fraulein Schneider (Joanne Howarth).

Harry Melling, famed for playing Dudley Dursley in the Harry Potter franchise, is excellent as Christopher Isherwood, expertly capturing his impressionable nature and post-adolescent angst over his massive crush on shameless manipulator, maneater and little girl lost, Sally Bowles.

Sally Humphries gives a belter of a performance as the leading lady and the supporting cast, particularly Sophie Dickson who plays rich Jewess, Natalia Landauer, and Freddie Capper as the bohemian bankrupt, Fritz Wendel, are superb.

The Vault at Southwark Playhouse underneath the arches of London Bridge station complete with the odd train roaring overhead is the perfect setting.

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Even minus the singing and suspenders this starry show knocks spots off 70s glitzfest, Cabaret.

And I do not say that lightly. Fringe or West End – it does not matter when it’s this good.

* I Am A Camera is at Southwark Playhouse, SE1, until September 22. Box office 020 7407 0234.