Review: Fury & Elysium (The Other Palace Studio)

This epic new musical highlighting the women active during Berlin’s interwar Weimar period is something of a lovely surprise, with each given the chance to tell her story against the backdrop of the changing political times.

The drag king Claire Waldoff (Ashley Goh), the madam Kitty Schmidt (Danielle Steers), the writer Gabriele Tergit (Maya Kristal Tenenbaum), the socialist Rosa Luxemburg (Michal Horowicz) , the dada Valeska Gert (Rosie Yadid), and the dancer Anita Berber (Charlotte Clitherow, swing understudying Iz Hesketh) are our focus.

All based on real women who chafed against convention and did something groundbreaking. Each offers a different perspective on feminism, racism, and homophobia.

Although there is enough in Stephanie Martin’s book to fill several shows, I liked the time-shifting vignettes covering a 15-year period, which allowed all the cast members to play multiple supporting roles.

Production image for Fury & Elysium

On a sparsely stage studio floor, Fury & Elysium manages to conjure up places, times, and feelings with just a couple of stepladders and other props. No woman is a cypher here

There are moments which harshly underline the tide of political change: a btothel is taken over; a Jewish reporter is told she “fits in” and should be “more grateful” when she queries an unreliable and inflammatory narrative; a couple watch as their neighbours are dragged away; a dancer takes morphine after her last routine.

Some of the songs by Calista Kazuko Georget are deeply evocative of the time – “King of the Night”, for Waldoff; “Filth”, for Berber; and the closing “Goodnight Berlin” which leads into a shocking if predictable conclusion.

Production photo for Fury & Elysium

Goh’s womanising drag king captures the heart with their thrilling vocal range and charisma, while Steers’s measured and confident Kitty morphs into a traditional mother with hints of her Barnsley roots.

Yadid exudes a powerful sexuality and playful cynicism as Gert, balanced by Tenenbaum’s exiled scribbler, who cannot comprehend how cruel her country has become.

While not fully participating in all the action, Clitherow comes into her own with her solo number, while offering a touching reading of a bewildered child ostracised for worshipping in an unpatriotic way.

Horowicz’s political firebrand Luxemburg feels interesting but is done far too quickly; her newspaper editor and Nazi cheerleader make an impact later on.

Production photo for Fury & Elysium

Co-directors Rafaella Marcus and Karoline Gable keep the pace moving while allowing the sextet moments of support and quiet. There is a real sense of threat hovering over this Berlin, which celebrates differences in all forms but also a sense of sisterhood.

In life, these six women may not have known each other, but their stories give clarity and colour to a period often characterised simply by cruelty and jackboots. Scenes where children parrot their parents’ poison are carefully written and delivered.

In Fury & Elysium, you will find a story or set of stories that demonstrate why Germany found itself following a man who brought hatred to his country under the guise of pride in its women and children.

You can watch Fury & Elysium in The Other Palace Studio until 18 Jun: tickets here.


Image credit: Lexi Clare