Most people associate Berlin in the 1930s with the rise of the Nazi regime – and they’d be right. But underneath, before the power of Hitler really took hold, Berlin was a city of decadence and fun in late night clubs.
One such story that sums up the era, and famously starred Liza Minnelli in the 1972 film adaptation, is Cabaret, which is being performed at the Groundlings Theatre from May 31 until June 16.
Speaking about why he decided to put on the production, artistic director Richard Stride says: ‘The main reason we wanted to perform it is because the Groundlings is a dinner theatre, as Cabaret is set in.
‘The whole building can become the set if you like. We’ve gone for the art nouveau look and it’s very nature based. That’s how the clubs were back then, and especially with our sky ceiling, I think it works very well.
He adds: ‘Since the opening of the theatre we said that one day we would do Cabaret.’
Based on the book by Christopher Ishwood, Cabaret is set in 1931 Berlin as the Nazis are rising to power.
It focuses on the nightlife at the seedy Kit Kat Klub and revolves around the 19-year-old cabaret performer Sally Bowles and her relationship with American writer Cliff Bradshaw.
Richard adds: ‘It looks at the births of passion. Somehow people ignored it and suddenly it was there. Everything that was going on in the world, at the time, was starting to bubble away under the surface.’
When it came to the style behind directing the play, Richard took inspiration from director Mike Leigh.
He says: ‘We got together a whole bunch of actors that auditioned and there wasn’t a huge amount of people, so what we did was spend the first two and a half months not telling them what part they had.
‘We just looked at the whole play and the script itself and experimented with it.
‘There was a lot of improvisation and a lot of background work. It’s only in the past few weeks that people have been given characters.’
He adds: ‘Everyone knows it inside out and often actors only read their part, when they need to know the whole play. That’s what we’ve been trying to get out of them and it’s been a really interesting project.’
Cabaret shows at 8pm on May 31, June 1, 2, 7, 8, 9, 14, 15 and 16.
Tickets cost £9.50 to £17.50 from Groundlings Theatre, Portsea on (023) 9273 7370 or go to groundlings.co.uk.