Love for Sale
Intelligent and decadent cabaret play
Performer Kelly Burke and pianist Joseph Atkins' charming homage to Bertolt Brecht, Kurt Weill and the classic American songbook may be something of an acquired taste, but that's exactly as it should be – not everyone likes oysters or pearls. Burke's broken cabaret gal, smiling through tears, prostitution and poverty in the 1930s may of course call to mind Christopher Isherwood's Sally Bowles (immortalised on the big screen by the great Liza Minnelli in Cabaret) but she's mostly compelling on her own terms, with the looks,voice and charisma of the showgirl going, going, gone to seed.
There is a slight problem in the production's structure – leaving the audience uncertain whether it's a song cycle or cabaret, and their initial response is a little tentative. However, once it thaws, the show sparks to life. A couple of songs and lines are repeated less enthusiastically by Burke than before, suggesting the endless grinding routine of the singer's act and lifestyle. 'I'm A Stranger Here Myself' cracks with the vulnerability of an uncertain future and 'Ballad of the Soldier's Wife' even dips a toe into burlesque. The chanteuse starts to publicly unravel, having checked the cleanliness of the front row's hands and demanding all the men line up outside.
There are many parallels drawn here between the Weimar Republic and contemporary austerity, where radical theatre provides an alternative to reality by alluding to the human condition with a weary smile and a knowing wink. Burke and Atkins ultimately succeed in a heartfelt and stylish show which is as intelligent as it is decadent.
Assembly Hall, until 29 Aug, 5.45 pm, £11–£12 (£10–£11).