"The ninety and nine are with dreams, content but the hope of the world made new, is the hundredth man who is grimly bent on making those dreams come true" - Edgar Allan Poe
Oh, the magic and the madness of the Cabaret. The very colour of laughter. The love and the illusion. The pain and the dreams. The alcohol and the prostitutes.
Described by the director as “an Edgar Allan Poe tale, told by Tom Waits through Edward Hopper’s eye”, this surreal piece of theatre focuses its drunken gaze on Edward, the wondrous magician of a crumbling cabaret. Addicted to booze, cigarettes and the stage, his world floats around him in a sleepy haze. His life a torturous struggle with the right and the true.
But out of the darkness comes a light. A mysterious man of no name offers him all he could ever want. Unlimited money. A theatre of his own.
But all dreams come at a price and Edward will have to revisit a remembered reality in order to grasp what he desires... oh, the magic and the madness of the Cabaret.
Alcohol helps you to forget and women help you to remember. Many a man is a slave to them both and the line of truth becomes ever more a blur. And so, with an air of rasping inevitability, in creeps that naughty, poisonous whore, Insanity.
And it is madness that you will find here. Nightmarish characters drenched in a sea of red light, suffering in the sticky heat, as we all were. Uncomfortable it was, but the atmosphere was ripe for the occasion.
To begin with, it was not entirely clear whether this was a nightmare I would enjoy. To say that it began at a snail’s pace is a gross understatement and the first character we are introduced to, the Manager, is more irritating than entertaining. Throw in the hell-like heat and you’ve got yourself an audience a little too uncomfortable for its purpose.
However, after the first 20 minutes things do start to get very interesting. And, with that, it soon becomes increasingly clear just how good some of the performances really are.
Initially, Martin O’Neill seemed quite predictable as Edward, playing a whining drunk. This changed as the show progressed and he became quite frightening in his spontaneity. We also discover just how complicated Edward is and this gives O’Neill room to explore a vast range of emotions, which he does very well and gives a performance worthy of this tricky character.
As well balanced as Martin O’Neill’s performance is, the star turn must go to Callum Madge who plays the unknown man. He brings an intelligence and intensity to a role that I can only describe as demonic. And in a way, on reflection, the character is indeed just that: a demon. Though, perhaps, not in the manner that you believe.
It was a little disappointing to see so many characters throughout with their faces painted. Yes, there was the whole clown aspect to the story, but it is a tool used too often to portray the horrific and deformed. It was a little too student like in that respect and this flaw can also be traced to moments within certain scenes, which came across as being a little self-important and pretentious.
On the whole though, Daniel Arco has written and directed a very intriguing piece that challenges the audience and forces them to confront images and ideas that perhaps would normally only linger and die amongst the stench of the lost.
Runs until Saturday 17th, 7.30pm