Cabaret Festival

Mark Nadler: I’m a stranger here myself – 2012 Adelaide Cabaret Festival

Presented by Mark Nadler and the Adelaide Cabaret Festival
Reviewed Wednesday 13th June 2012

This is Mark Nadler’s fifth visit to the Adelaide Cabaret Festival, and his late night Broadway Hootenanny has become a regular event for a great many Cabaret goers. It seems that nearly everybody gravitates to wherever Mark Nadler is playing, at the end of each day, previously in the Piano Bar and this year in the Banquet Room. He has made so many fans, and friends, that he is now so much a part of this event that it would not be a Cabaret Festival without him. Last week the Banquet Room was filled to overflowing at night. Tonight, though, it was almost deserted as Nadler was not performing. In his place there was only a loud noise from a DJ that even made sitting over a drink to chat, impossible

Mark Nadler also presents his more structured cabaret performances at an earlier time in the evenings, and last year he took us back to 1961 as the theme for his show. This year, his production takes us even further back, to the Weimar Republic, and to the birthplace of German Kabarett. He brings to life again, through song, the personal lives of the composers and performers, as well as ordinary people, and through insights into the social, political, and cultural situation between the wars and into WWII.

Accompanied by two superb musicians on piano accordion and violin, Nadler seemed to lose himself in his songs, affected by the lyrics and giving them the full weight that originally carried. Probably the three best known names of this era are lyricist Bertold Brecht, composer Kurt Weill and Weill’s wife, the Kabarett singer Lotte Lenya. We have all heard the songs and musicals of Brecht and Weill, but when Nadler sings Bilbao, it is completely different. We are used to hearing as simply another song but Nadler invests it with the emotion, the relevance to the era and darkness that it deserves and needs to really convey its meaning. Nadler’s immense knowledge of cabaret in general, and especially Weimar Kabarett, is what makes this possible, that and his massive talent and skill.

As Nadler explains the characteristics of the Weimar Republic, the individuality and separation of people, the casual approach to interpersonal encounters, being alone, and the ever present dangers, one cannot help but feel that we are there with him back on the 1920s and 30s. He paints a vivid picture and one cannot but help feeling for the people that he tells us about and the trials and tribulations that they faced.

Nadler points out that many of those who contributed to Kabarett were outsiders: Jews, homosexuals, and immigrants. Another of the important composers of the time, Friedrich Hollaender, for instance, was born in England. That, he tells us, put them in a good position to be able, through a degree of distance, to view and comment upon society. We must not forget that this was an era of dark cabaret, gallows humour was a major part of Kabarett and, rather than lots of music, there were many sketches satirising people, events, and situations. Nadler brings this darkness and powerful emotion into every moment of his performance to a pint where it becomes palpable.

We are also reminded of the contribution to Kabarett and early French cabaret of Marlene Dietrch, Edith Piaf, Jacques Brel, Mischa Spoliansky, the young Charles Aznavour, and others. In a time when one wrong word could be your last, Nadler highlights the bravery of lyricist Kurt Schwabach and composer Spoliansky (under the pseudonym, Arno Billing) who wrote the famous gay anthem, The Lavender Song (Das Lila Lied).

Mark Nadler engages with his subject and with the audience in such a remarkable way that it seems as though all of this is a part of your own personal history. He stirs the emotions in what is a powerful and moving performance that is impossible to resist. There is comedy, there is music, and there are some great stories. I am sure that the words “Oh no, don’t stop” went through more minds than just mine when the performance ended.

This is a different side of Mark Nadler, another of the many facets on this cabaret diamond. His incredible piano playing, his marvellous voice, his story telling skills, his knowledge, his understanding of his subject, and his captivating personality were all there in force, as usual, but this was not the free-wheeling wildness of his Broadway Hootenanny, with its spontaneity and dangerous edge, this was a far more emotionally and involving performance. There is one more performance tonight. If you can get a ticket, do so. This is real cabaret.

Reviewed by Barry Lenny, Arts Editor, Glam Adelaide.

Cabaret Festival web site – Mark Nadler
Mark Nadler’s web site

Venue: Banquet Room, Adelaide Festival Centre, King William Road, Adelaide
Season: to 7pm 14th June 2012
Duration: 1hr 10mins
Tickets: $34.90 to $44.90
Bookings: BASS 13 12 46 or here

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