Margo: Half Woman, Half Beast at Assembly Rooms - Drawing Room is an all too short glimpse into the life, times and music of the Weimar Republic years of Berlin through the eyes of cabaret star Margo Lion. This wonderful work of theatre gives us as an audience a small window upon which to view Margo Lion’s life, lovers (Marlene Dietrich was one) and friends against a backdrop of Berlin (and Germany’s) economic, social and political crisis, a time of hyper inflation, mass unemployment and food shortages.
Melinda Hughes brings Margo to life on stage through a combination of a sensitive dramatic performance and well performed songs. Through Margo’s eyes we can imagine a Berlin where pretty much “anything goes” being taken away from everyone around her as riots become common in the streets and the Nazi Party takes a firm hold of everyday life. First in their sites are satirists, artists, homosexuals, Jews and anyone with an unwanted opinion or lifestyle. The economic and social chaos in Germany brought about largely as a result of surrender terms after WW1 maybe did not cause the Nazi party to come into existence, but they certainly made the rise of the extreme far right so easy when there were so many problems in society, and so many people to potentially “blame” for everyone’s problems.
Through a sensitive portrayal of Margo by Melinda we get a feeling of the chaos in her life, and pretty much everyone around her. Personal freedoms on every front do not seem to have made Margo or any of her circle of friends happy or content as human beings.
This work is of course also about “Berlin Cabaret” and the music. Many people will be familiar already with the work of Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht, and of course their classic satirical attack on capitalism, “The Threepenny Opera”, but the works of Mischa Spoliansky, Friedrich Hollaender, and lyricist Marcellus Schiffer may be less well known to many (including myself). This work is not only the story of Margo Lion, but her relationship with these creatives, and in particular her life with Marcellus Schiffer.
Our Cabaret set list is a combination of songs from the Weimar period and new songs from Melinda Hughes and Jeremy Limb. What is amazing about the original Weimar songs here though is that, nearly 100 years on, all their biting social and political satire is as true and relevant now as it was at the time of their creation. The 21st century still needs “Weimar Republic Cabaret” and Melinda Hughes is perhaps someone who will carry that torch on from others who have kept that torch burning brightly (Ute Lemper of course comes to mind here).
Margo is directed by Sarah Sigal and is a well thought out dramatic and musical work. This is theatre where every small prop on stage has a purpose in the story and often its own little story too. Music and sound clips are timed to perfection. If you have any interest in German Cabaret music, try not to miss this one. If you have any interest in new and well performed theatre, try not to miss this one.
Melinda Hughes also has an album out “Weimar & Back”.
Review by Tom King
Margo: Half Woman, Half Beast
Assembly Rooms - Drawing Room
Aug 4-5, 7-12, 14-18
Country: United Kingdom - England
Group: Cheyne Productions Ltd