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Margo: Half Woman, Half Beast review at Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh – ‘moving personal drama’

Melinda Hughes in Margo: Half Woman, Half Beast. Photo: David Monteith-Hodge Melinda Hughes in Margo: Half Woman, Half Beast. Photo: David Monteith-Hodge
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Many artists have attempted to capture on stage the essence of cabaret during the Weimar Republic in Germany. Rather than simply performing a selection of songs from the period, Melinda Hughes has created a one-woman show that offers a first-hand account of the fall of Berlin to Hitler and the Nazi regime. Performing as Margo Lion, a Berlin-based French cabaret singer, Hughes mixes a selection of classic and original numbers around an observational monologue.

Margo, best known for her role as Pirate Jenny in Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill’s Threepenny Opera, was also one of Marlene Dietrich’s lovers, but developed a special attachment to lyricist Marcellus Schiffer. Hughes populates her monologue with all these characters and more as she details the decadent arts scene and its clashes with the burgeoning right wing.

Accompanied by Michael Roulston on keyboard and Alana Dawes on double bass, Hughes performs numbers by Schiffer and his composer Mischa Spoliansky, interspersed with original pieces, written by herself and composer Jeremy Limb. It’s a testament to Limb and Hughes’ compositional style that its difficult to discern which are original numbers, but that also speaks volumes for the Weimar classics, the lyrics of which seem equally resonant today.

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Moving personal drama interspersed by a rich and varied narrative song set