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Sex, decadence and downright nastiness ooze from every pore of Lisa May’s ambitious, high energy production of Kander and Ebb’s sublime musical, which emanates from Christopher Isherwood’s delicately nuanced snapshots of his time in 1930s Berlin. The MAC’s Downstairs space has been transformed into a dingy cabaret setting, a sleazy house of dubious pleasures, strewn with rickety tables and mismatched chairs. Production values are of a very high standard, from Matthew Reeve’s multi-layered musical arrangements, played live on a raised platform, to Stuart Marshall’s atmospheric recreation of the Kit Kat Club, complete with crumbling proscenium arch, tattered curtains and dank, peeling doors.

Patrick J O’Reilly’s glinting Emcee conducts the raunchy revels with an edgy, desperate glee, his grimacing features flagging up the horrors that lurk unseen. The dark shadows do not come creeping stealthily but rather descend like thunderbolts, thereby allowing some important emotional beats to slip by unnoticed.

In spite of her artfully torn stockings, there is something of an uneasy fracture between Kerri Quinn’s glossy-bobbed, Minelli-styled Sally and the dishevelled female ensemble, whose ungainly routines feel utterly in keeping with their grubby surroundings. Quinn is undoubtedly a fine singer, but her busy characterisation still has a little way to go to engage sympathies and strike up a credible chemistry with Matthew Forsythe’s nicely laid-back Cliff. The drama is at its most effective when, as in the skilfully realised final moments, the cast stop working so hard to please and simply immerse themselves in the chilling unfolding narrative.

  • MAC, Belfast
  • September 16-October 4, PN September 18
  • Authors: John Kander music, Fred Ebb lyrics, Joe Masteroff book, John Van Druten original play, Christopher Isherwood original stories
  • Director: Lisa May
  • Design: Stuart Marshall set, Christine Boyle costumes, James C McFetridge lighting
  • Musical director: Matthew Reeve
  • Choreographer: Sarah Johnston
  • Technical: Rory Casey company stage manager/production manager, Patrick Freeman stage manager
  • Cast includes: Kerri Quinn, Patrick J O’Reilly, Matthew Forsythe, Karl O’Neill, Katie Tumelty, Donncha O’Dea, Scarlet Wilderink
  • Producers: Bruiser Theatre Company, MAC
  • Running time: 2hrs 30mins

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The Stage
The Stage is a British weekly newspaper and website covering the entertainment industry, and particularly theatre. It was founded in 1880. It contains news, reviews, opinion, features, and recruitment advertising.