Review: Fabulett 1933 (Camden Fringe)

Weimar Berlin, 1933. Felix is the MC of the Fabulett, a cabaret club which celebrates and encourages the decadent, the deviant, and the dispossessed of Germany to enter its doors and be who they want to be (“men in women’s clothes, women in men’s clothes, and everything in-between).

The new administration in the country is closing down the places where people express their freedom, and this is the club’s final night. We become the patrons of this fabulous place as well as the audience of a show in which creator/performer Michael Trauffer brings one of those personalities of the pre-Nazi era back to life.

Felix, who wears his mother’s dresses aged eight, who fights on the Western Front in the Great War, and who hides his light under a “hat of invisibility”, stands for every man, woman, or gender-fluid person who was allowed to flourish in the Berlin between the wars, then cruelly discarded under Goering’s directive against “immorality”.

Trauffer, accompanied by musical director/painist Sarah Morrison, is a performer who can fill even the smallest of stages with his personality (and great costumes). We first see him as Felix, the soldier, at the Armistice, and revisit the horrors of warfare at various points throughout the show.

Michael Trauffer in Fabulett 1933

He mixes his own original songs with ones of the period (such as Masculinum Femininum, from 1921, and Oh, He’s Hating That I Love Him, from 1930 – music for both by Mischa Spoliansky) to drive the story along. The performance of these songs alone is worth making the trip to see this show.

There is a sense of doom throughout, as we all know how this story ends, but the final scene is both sensitively played and with a sense of hope for future generations. There is humour, too, throughout Fabulett 1933, bringing gay rights and liberation in the 1920s to the fore. A sense of intrigue and disorder comes with the arrival of a mysterious and charismatic lover, who will only see Felix by night.

This show is funny, informative, and touching. It has the universal message of “be what you are” and stands for the memory of every person persecuted for their audacity to be “different than the others”. It is a tender and towering tribute to the massacre of gays during the Second World War.

Fringe rating: ****

You can catch Fabulett 1933 at the Canal Cafe Theatre on 13 and 14 August as part of the Camden Fringe: book here.

Image credit: Edwin Louis