Cabaret/Malvern Theatres

FOUR decades on from the iconic movie, Worcester’s Rufus Norris has taken Christopher Isherwood’s narrative of 1930s Berlin decadence and made it his very own.

As well he might. After all, you don’t get to be head of the National Theatre without knowing a thing or two - and his style of direction provides ample evidence that this former boy from the city’s Battenhall area is indisputably now at the top of his game.

Both Will Young as Emcee and stage newcomer Louise Redknapp in the role of KitKat Club dancer Sally Bowles shine with a brilliance that almost out-gleams the seedy neon world in which they exist.

Theirs is a bubble of sex, drink and drugs which is about to be burst by the rise of Hitler and the Nazis, so it’s fortuitous that this descent into darkness is being chronicled by struggling writer Cliff (Charles Hagerty) who seems to be the only person aware that the proverbial is about to hit the fan.

Susan Penhaligon as Fraulein Schneider is both victim and collaborator with the Nazis’ nastiness, embodying the mass denial and callous pragmatism of ordinary Germans caught up in the nightmare.

Like Emcee, she exhibits a chilling ambivalence to what is going on, seemingly having no qualms about breaking off her betrothal to Herr Schultz (Linal Haft) purely because he is a Jew.

Cabaret may superficially be a riot of slick tunes, stockings, suspenders and lederhosen, but throughout there is a feeling of foreboding and creeping evil.

And despite the fact that John Kander and Fred Ebb’s infectious tunes lighten the show with a relentless breeziness, the underlying message still hits you with all the force of a storm trooper’s jackboot in your face.

This is a truly fabulous production and should not be missed. It runs until Saturday (Saturday, October 14).

John Phillpott