Dallas — In the face of oppression, creating art can be an important form of protest, and entertaining audiences invaluable. That’s the idea behind Bremner Duthie’s extraordinary solo show ’33: A Kabarett, which closes the Dallas Solo Fest today.
Set in a Weimar Republic cabaret in 1933, as Hitler is at the beginning of his rise to power, Duthie arrives at the establishment, flashlight illuminating the dark hallway and stage, to realize that security forces have taken his cultural colleagues. But there’s an audience—us. What else can he do but his job?
He’s a song-and-dance man, a clown with a mean streak and then a showgirl, breathlessly dedicated to giving the audience their money’s worth.
That he does.
With original direction by Dave Dawson and new direction by Joseph Furnari, it’s an incredibly physical and high-energy performance, as Duthie changes costumes and personas, commedia-style, from an oversized suit to the red nose and clown pants, and then adding a yellow tulle tutu before going back to the suit just before he exits. By the time that happens, he's not sure if his performance has been effective—or if he’ll ever have the chance to entertain again. But damn if he didn't give it his all.
Between stories that elicit both laughter and terror, simulatenously filled with hope and hopelessness, he sings in a haunting growl of a voice such songs as Noel Coward’s “20th Century Blues,” “Falling in Love Again,” "We're in the Money" and Kurt Weill’s “Mack the Knife.” (You can listen to his "20th Century Blues" below, and the album of this show is available online.)
One selection, “Our Village is Burning” by Mordechai Gebirtig, was part of the inspiration for this show, and it’s devastating. In Hitler’s Germany, the eradication of Jews, homosexuals and others was on the horizon, but he started with artists, anyone who might use their art to subversively, or blatantly, speak out against injustice.
Amidst the laughter and jaw-dropping physicality, ’33: A Kabarett has a gut-wrenching message about the purification of artists. In this case, that meant unspeakable death and destruction, but the thought of what would happen if artists and entertainers stopped doing what they do is frightening. That’s a world no one wants to live in.
Duthie reminds us that the passion of those who must create will never let that happen.
» Bremner Duthie's '33: A Kabarett has one more performance:
- Sunday, June 14 @ 3:30 p.m.
» Read our Q&A with Bremner Duthie here
And you can follow our coverage of the 2015 Dallas Solo Fest in our special section, here.