Theatre Review: I Am A Camera at the Rosemary Branch Theatre

A captivating snapshot of the rise of Nazism in pre-war Berlin is portrayed in I AM A CAMERA based on Christopher Isherwood’s autobiographical novels.

New company Cornelius Cooke Productions make a vivacious debut with a rare revival of John Van Druten’s 1951 play I Am A Camera.

It is based on Christopher Isherwood’s autobiographical novels set in Berlin during the rise of Nazism – which in turn inspired the musical Cabaret.

The play is set in the bedsit occupied by aspiring writer Christopher and nightclub singer Sally Bowles, and Van Druten excels at making these hedonistic characters likable. Director Owen Calvert-Lyons maintains a fast, farcical pace, rather like a sitcom punctuated with moments of bleakness, while Amy Yardley’s set beautifully evokes seedy bohemianism. These friends, preoccupied with partying and cultivating Americans with unlimited wealth, fail to realise that they are living in extraordinary times, the hideousness of the growing gangs of Nazis in the streets only hitting home when witnessed first-hand.

The heart of the piece is the somewhat one-sided friendship between Chris (Mark Jackson) and Sally (an entrancing Vicki Campbell), who talks faster than she can think and leaves others to tidy up the debris she leaves behind. Jackson is equally impressive as her less flamboyant counterpart, particularly when hinting at Chris’s ambiguous love life.

Caroline Wildi is deliciously clipped as Sally’s mother and arch-nemesis. Erika Poole also impresses as Fraulein Schneider, the ever-helpful landlady with a heart of gold who fortunately knows the local abortionist’s telephone number – alongside the fact that she also represents the brainwashed majority that helped Hitler rise to power.

This is a sparkling tribute to mark the 25th anniversary of Isherwood’s death, a captivating snapshot into another world that’s delivered by a remarkable team who have set themselves a very high standard.

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* Showing at the Rosemary Branch Theatre in Shepperton Road, N1, until Sunday, May 29.