FABULETT 1933 at Edinburgh Festival Fringe
“Trauffer’s performance is full of charisma”
Our story begins in 1932 in the fabulous Fabulett cabaret club in Berlin. Fascism is on the rise and queer clubs and culture spaces are under attack. Tonight is the last night of club Fabulett before they close their doors for good at 10pm. Looking after us for the evening is our host, Felix, who appears in leather pants and corset, with black gloves, a cape and a cain. He is accompanied by pianist James Hall who plays the tunes in this camptastic musical variety show. Despite this being the place where the first gender-affirming surgery was performed, a country where queerness had the opportunity to flourish, Felix (Michael Trauffer), and his queerness, is not fully embraced by his family. As he uncovers stories from his past, we learn that he moved to Berlin to live his true self, away from his father who thought that fighting in the war would be the thing to make him finally “man up”.
Trauffer’s performance is full of charisma. Whilst telling us the poignant details of his past, of his broken relationship with his family, he’s also able to find lots of humour and a glittery sense of fun, especially with the music numbers. He stands centre stage, performing a number about wanting his queerness to be ‘visible’, a song he reprises a couple of times throughout the show. The musical numbers are a little static. During one of them, Trauffer mounts a suitcase which he begins to whip as he discovers his kinkier side. But a little more choreography could go a long way to let these numbers really shine.
There’s some letter writing to his mother back home, for which Felix decides to hide his threesomes and instead refer to all the new ‘friends and acquaintances’ he’s made. After the death of his mother, he’s told not to come back home by his dad. But he makes it as a big star in the cabaret, despite the nightmares and flashbacks from his war days creeping into his sleep. There are moments of real poignancy, which nicely contrast with the high-energy musical numbers.
At the end of the night, the Fabulett closes, and we’re left with an important message about the rise of fascism. Just as the Nazis closed down the cabaret clubs in the 1930s, the same thing could happen again. With censorship, threats to freedom of speech, and an increase in LGBTQ+ hate-crime on the rise, it could happen under our noses. And any of us could be at risk of losing our freedoms. The story is a little surface level at times, but nevertheless it’s a very entertaining hour of performance, with a captivating performance from Trauffer.
Reviewed 10th August 2022
by Joseph Winer
Photography by Edwin Louis
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Charing Cross Theatre
Reviewed – 28th October 2019
“despite being predictable to the end, the story flows as harmoniously as the ensemble singing”
The setting for “Soho Cinders” is Old Compton Street, a street that knows no shame, where theatre goers rub shoulders with prostitutes and local businessmen on their way home are having one last drink as they collide with a younger crowd arriving for their first. It is a world which never really existed but you kind of feel it might have done. It is London as we know it, but with a technicolour gloss coating that fits perfectly with this modern-day retelling of ‘Cinderella’.
With music by George Stiles, Lyrics by Anthony Drewe and book by Drewe and Elliot Davis, the classic fable is given a satirical twist with a plot that is, in turns, comedic, romantic and serious. The mix of politics, scandal and true love is flawlessly balanced so that, despite being predictable to the end, the story flows as harmoniously as the ensemble singing.
Young, impoverished student Robbie is ‘Cinderella’, scraping a meagre living in his late mother’s laundrette, but facing eviction from his ‘ugly’ stepsisters who run the strip club next door. He just gets by with the occasional pay off from a local ‘Lord’, but when he begins a secret liaison with the already engaged Mayoral candidate, he looks set to lose everything. And everyone. Luke Bayer captivates as Robbie, having us rooting for him throughout. When he sings “Happy ever afters always turn out wrong”, we both wish and know that he’ll be proven wrong and he’ll find his prince. Part of me, however, wishes he would straighten up and fall for his co-worker and best-friend ‘Velcro’. Millie O’Connell imbues Velcro with a warmth, loyalty and irreverent wisdom that makes it one of the stand-out performances.
The show stealers are surely Clodagh and Dana, the stepsisters, though they do have a head start. Davis’ script is overflowing with brilliant one liners and these sisters have the lion’s share of them. Michaela Stern and Natalie Harman certainly make a meal of them too with unforgettably hilarious performances. But each character is given their moment to shine, while the ensemble highlights Adam Haigh’s dynamic choreography. Stiles and Drewe’s eclectic score is a catchy mix of ballads, duets and showstoppers, ranging from the achingly beautiful “They Don’t Make Glass Slippers” through to the fiery “I’m So Over Men”, which is reprised with a clever double-entendre re-interpretation of its title.
“Soho Cinders” is a musical with a heart full of passion and a belly full of laughs. As the nights draw in and the cold fronts approach the city, this show will certainly reignite the cinders and leave you with a feeling of warmth. The moral of the fairy-tale is in plain sight, but it doesn’t quench the enjoyment. This incredibly talented cast have as much fun as the audience. An audience who will still be humming the tunes way after midnight. Go! You’ll have a ball.
Reviewed by Jonathan Evans
Photography by Pamela Raith
Charing Cross Theatre until 21st December
Previously reviewed at this venue: