How is it the end of Week Seven already? And how are we halfway through November?! These are questions I can’t answer, I’m afraid. However, I can tell you what’s on in the Drama Barn this weekend: it’s the classic musical Cabaret, co-directed by Sam Finlay and Golfo Migos.
Based on the play I Am A Camera by John Van Druten, which was adapted from the novel Goodbye to Berlin by Christopher Isherwood, Cabaret is set in the prelude to the Nazi Party’s rise to power in 1930s Germany. Cliff Bradshaw (Jamie Bowman) is a writer on a trip to Berlin, hoping to find some inspiration there for his new book. While attending the seedy Kit Kat Klub, he meets performer Sally Bowles (Emma Whitworth) and the two fall in love. As time passes, it’s clear that the world they know is dissolving around them, and it isn’t long before one of the most horrific events in human history comes to stifle their dreams.
The Drama Barn is tiny: it’s a small, intimate space that can generally accommodate almost any show, but I had my doubts about whether Finlay and Migos could squish the atmospheric world of Cabaret into it. I’m pleased to report that, for the most part, they’ve just about managed it. Wilem Powell’s set design manages to amalgamate several locations and themes into one neat visual aesthetic – limbs of mannequins and empty picture frames help to highlight the painfully imminent deconstruction of the world. The whole cast also work together very well as ensemble, and bring plenty of energy into the space, helping to craft some atmospheres that contrast perfectly with the end of the show.
There are, however, a couple of minor niggles I have with this production. At times, the energy brought in by the cast seems to drop (especially in scenes with just two performers), making things seem to drag on a little bit. Alongside this, some of the choreography isn’t quite sharp enough, with some performers looking slightly tentative in the execution of their sequences. This is remedied, however, by the whole ensemble in several scenes, making everything more engaging and snapping the audience back into the world of the play. Voice projection is also an issue at times, with actors being somewhat too internal when delivering their lines and making it difficult to hear them.
Scene transitions also feel slightly clunky, with actors occasionally coming on late and lighting design ideas falling short of being smooth and exciting. Everything appears slightly filmic, moving from one scene to another in such a sudden, sharp way – but there’s not enough conviction from the company to make it look like a justified design choice.
Despite these minor problems with this production of Cabaret, everything else is fantastic about it. There are some excellently crafted characters and some great singing too, and when Cabaret does nail it outside of these small problem areas, you really see it and – more importantly – appreciate it. This production is a shining example of the fact that there’s no limit to what you can do in the Drama Barn, and is definitely a show to check out this weekend.
Cabaret is playing at the Drama Barn until 15 November. For more information and tickets, visit the York University Students’ Union website. Photo: Harry Elletson