Unfortunately, the time has come to end my Cabaret module and I can safely say that in my three years at university, it has been one of my highlights. To be able to explore a subject I am so passionate about in so much historical detail has been insightful and hugely interesting. It has also changed my perception of the genre completely to realise that it encompasses a huge amount of ground, not just the stereotypical image created by films such as Cabaret. From what I have learnt in this module, I have a real interest in continuing to investigate performance poetry as a possible avenue for me to start performing in cabaret and have already started to perform the poem I wrote for this module at Open Mic nights. I also want to continue to go and see as much cabaret as possible to pursue my interest.

I am going to finish on another Camille O’Sullivan song which she uses to end many of her gigs:

The end is not the end,

The dance is never over.

Despite facing the problem of delaying our performance, I am really proud of how our final piece went! It was great fun to write and perform and I think it went very well.

The major difficulty I faced during performance was the difference between performing comedy in rehearsal and in front of an audience. By practising our performance many times, especially as our rehearsal process was much longer than many other groups, I found the jokes were no longer funny, however when put in front of an audience laughing, I found the humour in them again. Although this was a great feeling, as it confirmed our belief in our creation of comedy, it lead me to corpse many times on stage. I found this particularly prevalent in my poem as some of my jokes were quite crude. Although this would not usually bother me when practising to my friends, it didn’t not expect it to feel as awkward as it did on stage, especially as it was a solo performance. If I were to repeat the process, I would make sure my group and I rehearsed in front of an audience to get used to their reactions before performing the final piece. 

There were however also many advantages to our extended rehearsal process such as the ideas we developed and incorporated whilst rehearsing. One such idea was our use of caricature.  Alex, Emily P and I found that although we each had a solo performance, our characters were lacking any real personality and so decided to develop them further through creating caricatures of popular modern stereotypes. This is a technique that was popular in music hall as a way of mocking different social stereotypes within Victorian society - particularly the middle and upper classes, with acts such as Champagne Charlie (Kift, 1996, p.49). I decided to, as I was performing poetry, embody the stereotype of the genre by wearing a beret and a scarf and adopting a RP accent. However, as my poem was written to emphasise my own cockney dialect, this created humour as I suddenly switched accents to perform in, emphasising the comical exaggeration in both stereotypes through juxtaposition. Alex and Emily’s characters also used common stereotypes that our audience would easily recognise; an “emo” and a drunk. Well known stock characters such as these are a very easy, quick ways of creating comedy as the characters are easily recognised for their comic value and the well known associations of the persona can be emphasised or reversed.

Unfortunately, I only got to see the work of one other group, some second years who created a spoof of a dating show. In their performance, I really liked the way mixed media, set and costume were able to assist the creation of comedy in the scene and though these elements were well handled and incorporated. If I was to redo my piece, I would also like to experiment with mixed media after seeing how well it worked for them. Although the style of comedy they used was a little cringey for my tastes, I really admired the enthusiasm and professionalism they embodied, making the piece amusing. 

Bibliography:

Kift, D. (1996) The Victorian Music Hall: Culture, Class and Conflict. Translated from German by Kift, R. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

So I have been busy brain storming what I could write for my poem and I think I’ve got it. I’m combining to areas of cabaret that interest me: the idea of using cabaret as a political tool as well as what as its treatment of women and the idea of female sexuality as empowering. I am therefore electing to write about modern day sexism but through the medium of comedy. I started by revisiting a piece of performance poetry by a band I have been a fan of for many years, The King Blues and their ‘Five Different Bottles of Shampoo’.

I really like the way Itch begins the poem in the normal situation of being in a supermarket and is able to take that and expand into exploring political issues before bringing the audience back to that same supermarket with comical ending. I think this format allows what can otherwise be seen as a fairly preachy poem to become more relatable to the audience as well as give a context as to why he is writing. I also love how he has used rhythm to truly make the poem performative. It would not have the same effect if read to one’s self. It reminded me of beat poetry and in particular this poem by Tim Minchin.

Again, Tim uses the format of an everyday situation to explore the issues he is trying convey, as well as making them funny and therefore more easily understood and digestible for an audience. I love the backing beat and sound effects used and think it works really well, especially when combined with the rhyme structure to make the piece very aurally pleasing. However, I think that this might be a pretty big challenge for my first piece of poetry. I think I will first write my poem with an awareness of rhythm and once it is written experiment with a backing beat to see if I can make it work.

I came up with the overriding story line of piece being about walking home after a night out, needing the toilet and wishing I was man so that I could pee in the street. As well as being funny, this gives me a lot of scope to explore feminist issues as I can use the setting of a walk home to tackle other problems of walking home as a woman and how these would be different if I were a man. Here is my final poem: 

The time has come to create our final performance piece and, as we have worked together so well recently, Alex, Emily, Emily and I decided create our piece together again. With such a wide brief and so many avenues available to explore, we first started to consider issues we could potentially address. Emily Pearce had the idea to start with a problem that affects three quarters of our group and work from there to create comedy; the problems of working in a bar (of which there are many!). We thought this would be a lot of fun as setting a piece in a bar gave a lot of scope for exploration of the cabaret genre as many took place in bar-like venues as well being able to subtly educate our peers as to how annoying customers can be. However, we quickly realised that this was not sufficient material for the entire piece and so thought about creating a whole piece to take place within the bar, with an educational lesson from the bar staff being just one factor.

We decided to go with the idea of our piece being in a dark, dingy, rough jazz club that is rarely frequented but is hosting a variety night. Although this is a very similar idea to the first piece we made, I feel that our new production will be heavily influenced and an improvement from the first in light of what we have learnt in our lectures. For example, the ‘rough’ atmosphere of the club can be likened to early music hall performances in working men’s clubs whilst the jazz element is more similar to the cabarets that emerged in Berlin and Paris. An important element in creating our desired atmosphere is the use of an emcee, whom we decided to base on Leopold Iwald from the Berlin Cabaret era. His style when working with troupe ‘Böse Buben’ (Bad Boys) was one of distain as he “introduced every number with disparaging words and shrugged his shoulders in disgust whenever the audience applauded” (Jelavich, 1993, p.72). We believe there is a huge amount of comic potential in the presence of this sort of character and a lot of fun to be had interacting with performers and audience. It will also create a contrast between the enthusiasm of performing a skill in the variety setting as well as add to the grotty atmosphere we are trying to create.

I had the idea of using the format of a variety night that goes wrong, therefore taking the traditional cabaret performance and metatheatrically burlesquing it. This format is also borrowed from Berlin Cabaret’s such as ‘Sound and Smoke’ who performed “parodies of the performing arts” (Jelavich, 1993, p.65), taking the performance styles popular at the time and finding comic value in their conventions. Like these performances, our aim is not to belittle the genre but more to find the humour within an industry we are part of and are knowledgeable about. However, unlike later performances at ‘Sound and Smoke’ that were criticised as their “self-referential humour concerning the arts was out of place in public performances before a general audience” (Jelavich, 1993, p.71), we will be performing in front of our peers who have the same knowledge of the genre. This technique allows us to present and explore variety performance from an outside perspective and the metatheatrical and immersive nature of our performance allows our audience to do the same, not as a criticism but for pleasure.

A side from our emcee played by Emily Sainsbury, Emily Pearce, Alex and I are bar staff at our club that are forced to step into the variety show when none of the acts turn up. This meant I had to think of an act I could perform and as I have mentioned in previous posts, I am not a singer or dancer. I therefore have decided to try my hand at performance poetry.  I have always wanted to try it and I think this is great opportunity to do so, however scary a concept it may be. It will also help to show just how wide a definition of variety can be applied to the cabaret genre. My next step is to research performance poetry and to start writing mine.

Bibliography

Jelavich, P. (1993) Berlin Cabaret. Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.

I have been listening to a lot of Ute Lemper today to get me in the mood to write my cabaret essay, especially her album ‘Berlin Cabaret Songs’. Here is one of my favourites, mixing the sexy and the political to create the comic; a wonderful trait in music of this era. Ute Lemper has made her fame from these songs which could over wise have been so easily lost to history. They are fabulous. 

Bit random but my friend posted this on my Facebook wall for my birthday the other day and it got me thinking:

Although the performance itself is pretty rubbish, I found it interesting that the modern day cabaret is able to exploit male as well as female sexuality. Although this is still relatively uncommon, or at least much less so than performances such as female strip tease, it makes me happy to think that the scene has come a long way since the dancers in clubs in Paris and Berlin and the Good Time Girls of Music Hall. But also that is because of the performances those women gave that we were able to move on to a time where the body and sexuality is something that can be used for comic and artist merit as well as titillation. This is something I definitely want to look in to a bit further, perhaps in my final essay. The idea of early cabaret dancers as either objectified or empowered and how this has lead to the scene day is of great interest to me and I would like to examine this idea from a feminist perspective.

I was very excited about having a lecture on Berlin Cabaret. One of the reasons I find the genre so interesting is the way it tackles issues of politics around the time of the Weimar Republic. With the loosening of censorship and a general feeling of disillusionment in Germany following the First World War, cabaret performers had far fewer constraints to what they said on stage, making issues such as sex and politics the main concerns of the performances, often through satire (Jelavich, 1993, p.2). Judson-Jourdain states “The popularity of cabaret was twofold: A) citizens viewed it as a medium for examining the state and B) depressed from the instability of the interwar years people were in desperate need of distraction, amusement and all the other benefits cabaret provided” (no date). The cabaret therefore proved to be both educational and entertaining for the audience, and as such a great way of making a political point. One of the most noted and a favourite performance of mine is the songs written and composed by Friedrich Hollaender who used music to highlight and discuss the politics of the Nazi party, amongst over humorous and satirical songs. One example is ‘Münchhausen’ (1931), here performed by Micaela Leon:

Now the black and red and gold

Is flying everywhere instead

And no where will you see those flags

Which sport that thing which zigs and zags.

Although not seen in this clip, the song begins with the protagonist dreaming of a perfect world where coffee poured out of trees and gradually progresses to highlight more political issues presented in the dreamed utopian world. A particularly prevalent example is the direct reference to the Nazi party in the above verse. Here, Hollaender uses a common technique in cabaret of lulling the audience into a false sense of security, thinking the song will be a perfectly normal narrative before subtlety including issues of politics, making them more digestible as the gradual progression means the audience are less aware of the political undertones. As Hollaender (1932) himself states (cited by Kaes et al), “under the cover of an evening’s relaxing entertainment, cabaret, like nothing else, suddenly dispenses a poison cookie. Suggestively administered and easily swallowed, its effect reaches far beyond the harmless evening to make otherwise placid blood boil and inspire a sluggish brain to think” (1995, p.566-567). The cabaret genre is able to take more serious issues and address them in an entertaining way, as a method of discussion or promoting social change. 

The same technique is often seen in comedy today through the popular medium of the panel show. Programmes like ‘Have I Got News For You’ and ‘Mock The Week’ are able to have high viewing figures because of the humour used and the selection of guest panellists but also discuss important political opinions. Therefore, a casual evening of entertaining television also becomes insightful.

However, with both Cabaret and comedy panel shows, the use of politics does raise an issue. As generally, an average person is more likely to watch these entertainment shows than official political debate, do these bias opinions, delivered by trusted TV faces have a large effect on peoples political opinions? And if so, is it fair for people who may have less knowledge of politics than the entertainers to just absorb their opinions as they are delivered through humour? This has lead to former Home Secretary David Blunkett to recently call for harsher restrictions to be put on these shows to prevent libel (The Huffington Post, 2013).  

I personally think that comedy and politics are the perfect combination in making political issues more accessible and entertaining for the public. 

Bibliography:

Hollaender, F. (1932) ‘Cabaret’, Die Weltbühne, 28(5), pp.169-171.

The Huffington Post (2013) David Blunkett Says Satirical TV Shows Like ‘Have I Got News For You’ Need Tighter Regulations. Available at:http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2013/12/28/david-blunkett-tv-regulation_n_4512182.html (Accessed: 4 May 2014).

Kaes, A.; Jay, M. and Dimenberg, E. (1995) The Weimar Republic Sourcebook. California: University of California Press.

Jelavich, P. (1993) Berlin Cabaret. Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. 

Judson-Jourdain, G. (no date) Culture Of Drink: Song, Dance, Alcohol And Politics In 20th Century Germany. Available at: https://instruct1.cit.cornell.edu/courses/his452/Alcohol/germancabaret.html#an4 (Accessed: 1 May 2014) 

Micaela Leon (2009)  Micaela Leon – Münchausen. Available at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xbyWgY4H_f8  (Accessed: 1 May 2014). 

Today we worked with Kylie from Cabaret performance company Kitsch n Sync which was great fun and I feel I learnt a lot about just how large the scope of performance styles cabaret offers is.

We first looked at some examples of her performances to get an idea of the kind of style we would be working in. I love how the company manage to combine the two elements of dance and comedy to create unique performances that look hugely enjoyable, both as an audience member and performer. With that in mind, we were first asked to create a short sketch based on a well-known Christmas song and incorporating a selection of possible props. We decided to look at Wizzard’s ‘I wish it could be Christmas everyday’ and explore what it would actually be like to have Christmas every day.  We did this through repetition of the same short scene; Santa on his sleigh with his reindeers, at various points in the year. This idea came from some of the props available; a trolley to use as Santa’s sleigh, Christmas hat and reindeer ears. With each repetition, our interest and performance slowly deteriorated from beginning with lots of energy, cheesy  smiles and a full dance routine to just pushing Santa out in his “sleigh”, gripping a bottle of vodka. Although only a short task, Kylie encouraged us to think about how we would develop the sketches if we were to use them as a full performance. We decided we would like to elongate the sketch and use more set and props to create much more of a sense of deterioration. For example, by beginning with the trolley decorated to look like a sleigh and having pieces fall off to reveal the trolley underneath. It would also be interesting to look at the idea from the position of parents in credit crunch Britain and how the standard of presents would lessen each day.

We then went on to work on an idea Kylie was constructing for her Christmas show, looking at Jack in the Boxes. We started to think about the ways in which a Jack in the Box would move, working as a group to follow instructions on where to move to. I felt that because the Jack on the Box is composed most vitally of a spring, there would be a sense of suspense or pause before each sudden and impulsive movement in the same way you must push down on a spring in order to let go. Thinking so in depth about movement, especially when creating a large comic character was very useful and I felt helped a great deal when we moved on to create our own “Jack’s” in the next task. I found I was able to base my characterisation on an already present physicality, producing a detailed performance. My “Jack”, “Jack the stoner” smoked an oversized, comedy spliff until a potential buyer came along, in which case he hid it and tried to act naturally. I slowed down my style of physicality and change my facial expression to fit in with this.  

For my final performance, I certainly consider using Kitsch n Sync’s style of various styles of cabaret performance to create an interesting product. I also love their vintage style and would like to find a way to make my piece seem modern yet with similar hints of the past.

I thought it was about time I posted another great cabaret song by another of my favourite artists, Sabrina Chap. Starting out as a burlesque performer, Sabrina writes many lude, sexual songs in character about feminist issues, gay rights or just to tell a story like in this example. Here she bases her song on the protagonist in Edward Gorey’s The Curious Sofa:

 

After learning about early forms of cabaret, I feel I view her music differently. The contrast between how shocking early female performers were to being able to sing comically and without censorship about sex in such a manor I find amazing. However, I can see how this kind of music takes its routes in Music Hall and performers such as Marie Lloyd. 

Continuing our work on comic sketches, this week we have been asked to perform sketches from television shows in groups. My group and I decided rather than perform one long sketch, we would choose multiple to perform. I started looking into shows that use this format such as Smack the Pony, French and Saunders and The Fast Show .I was particularly interested in the first two shows as they involved women and my group was exclusively female. However, I did find it difficult during my research as I didn’t really find this kind of humour very funny. It was difficult to imagine how I could make my class laugh in a sketch that I didn’t believe in the humour of. However, I did have one idea inspired by a famous sketch from BBC Two show Harry and Paul.

I thought that as this sketch, as well as being funny, tackles an important issue regarding the objectification of women, it would be interesting to try it with a female cast. However, I then decided that by introducing the new element of gender, it would distract from the original humour as the first contradiction of stereotype of well-educated, RP builders would be lost.

In our first meeting, Emily Pearce and Emily Sainsbury presented us with three sketches, two from That Mitchell and Webb Look and one from Smack the Pony and we decided these would be great ones to use. However they all needed slight adaptations, to change the genders of the Mitchell and Webb sketches and to add extra characters to the Smack the Pony sketch.

We realised that during rehearsal for our first two sketches, we were finding it difficult not to laugh. Although this was a good indication for the success of our pieces, we didn’t want to corpse on stage. We therefore started by doing numerous read-throughs until we became bored of the jokes and no longer found them funny before we started to stage the pieces. We were also very conscious of wanting to make the scenes our own, yet we found that a lot of the originally direction and delivery styles were already exploiting the comic potential to its fullest. We therefore, although trying to add our own characterisation, picked certain sections we wanted to delivery just like the original actors, for example my line “it’s funny because it involves poo” in the second sketch. We really liked Olivia Coleman’s gormless innocence.

Our third sketch was a bit different as it had to be completely adapted. We took our inspiration from the scene but then expanded to add more characters and to make it longer. We decided to set it in a club toilet and use music as if it was coming from the club. This would help to liven up our non-vocal scene and also help with our exits and entrances.  To elongate the sketch, we decided not just stick to lipstick but also incorporate using more makeup, also creating more opportunity for comic value. As our piece was longer, it meant we also had to think more about the characters. As the original sketch is so short, there is little time for character development, however we thought this might be boring in a longer context. I decided to make my character very drunk by falling on stage and pretending to stop myself being sick whilst doing my makeup. Emily Pearce’s character was also our own idea. We though her lack of subtlety would add a great juxtaposition to the subtle compertition between Emily Sainsbury and Alex, as well as meaning the scene wasn’t too repetitive.

Here is a video of our final performance:

Watching back the video, I can see the areas in my performance I need to work on. For example, my physicality is far too small to show up on stage, especially in a comedic piece and compared to Alex and Emily Pearce’s performances. I also notice I hold the mirror in front of my face, completely blocking what I am doing. I think videoing performances is a very useful technique and will definitely use it again in the future. If we did this during rehearsal, we could have corrected areas of our performance to improve and polish the final sketch.

All in all I feel all three of our sketches went really well and we certainly seemed to be getting laughs from the audience. Here is some of our feedback:

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After my lecture on Music Hall, I thought a lot about the cultural importance of the genre to me in terms of music. I found it odd that I was now being lectured on the songs I have clear memories of hearing in my childhood from my family and singing at school and how something personally significant to my working-class London identity is subject to academic study. This is not to say that this subject is not worthy of such scrutiny. On the contrary, cultural heritage is hugely interesting and important to understanding 21st century society. It is just slightly surreal to hear something so personal be dissected in such a manor. However, I love that between these two factors, a wonderful musical form that would over wise have died in the mid-20th century is able to live on in memory, academia and oral tradition. I found it hard to think of popular entertainment of the modern day that would have the same generational appeal and cultural importance. Of course, each family have their own particular traditions but I can’t imagine the music of the current time being remembered on such a large scale as music hall is in London communities.

I certainly intend to share my love of this music with my children and grandchildren as part of family tradition but also as a form of awareness of cultural identity and community. Here is one of my favourite tracks to listen to when I’m feeling a bit homesick and that have clear memories of as a child:

Today’s lecture was on Music Hall; Britain’s contribution to the Cabaret genre. Although familiar with Music Hall music, I was not aware of quite how vast a selection of other entertainment was available in these venues. As a fan of stand-up comedy, I was intrigued to learn it takes its roots from these kinds of performance venues, as so decided to look into it a bit further.

Although not becoming a fully-fledged, individual style until the 1960’s, stand-up comedy roots can be traced back to the Music Halls of the early 1800’s (Double, 1997, p.22-23) where comic acts would participate in variety performances alongside other entertainers. What particularly appealed to me is the idea of observational comedy for the working classes, allowing them to momentarily escape from the humdrum of working menial jobs for little pay into an evening of laughter. And nothing has changed. The fact that ticket sales for stand-up comedy have continued to rise since the recession shows just how reliant the public are on light relief from the reality of credit-crunch Britain (Salter, 2009). In particularly the popularity of comedians such as Micky Flanagan who have come from deprived areas of Britain and rocketed to stardom with truthful stories from grittier pasts.

Bailey (1998, p.129) discusses the importance of the “apparent verisimilitude of music hall’s representations of common life” as pivotal to its success and, although in this instances referencing song, the sentiment is just as applicable to comedy. The question is as to why an audience who have come to a music hall as a treat after a hard working week would want to be reminded of the mundanity of their ordinary lives? Personal, I would argue that there is something very quintessentially British about gaining joy from moaning as well as it being a cathartic process. Bailey cites Jones in describing this as a “culture of consolation” (p.129) where the lack of social change in the lives and conditions for the working classes is mocked and thus the pain diminished. Observational humour allows an audience to find pleasure from the simple and ordinary as well as tackle the irritating, upsetting or unpleasant by deriving a root in the comedic or in some cases the absurd. Therefore the music hall comic could function as a kind of therapist, allowing the cliental humorous outlet of their woes.

Additionally, the success of this kind of comedy reminded me of my Media A-Level knowledge of uses and gratification theory. Bulmer and Katz state that one of the ‘uses and gratifications’ of media text is personal identity; to see ones self reflected in what you are watching. Although a media theory, these ideas can easily be applied, in my opinion, to any kind of text. For a music hall audience to see their life be reflected on stage by a comic would be enjoyable as they are reinforcing their ideas of personal identity as well as being comfortable with seeing the familiar. I can see how this would enhance the power of the humour in that a joke would feel as if it applied to you personally. This can be seen in the work of modern day comedian Micky Flanagan. His specific culture references to East London life and working class problems are particularly humorous to an audience from that area and social dynamic. This point is supported by the fact he filmed his first live DVD in Southend in Essex to attract that particular audience and therefore capture the best kind of audience response for the recording. In this clip from the Royal Variety Show 2010, he discusses “the chicken children”; the kind of teenager commonly seen in London as well as “the cockney walk”:


Bibliography:

Double, O. (1997) Stand Up!: On Being a Comedian. London: Metheun.

Salter, J. (2009) ‘Laughing Off Britain’s Recession’, The Telegraph, 12 April. [Online] Available at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/recession/5145112/Laughing-off-Britains-recession.html (Accessed: 16 January 2014).

Wilson, K. (no date) Key Concepts in Media Studies. Available at: http://www.mediaknowall.com/as_alevel/alevkeyconcepts/alevelkeycon.php?pageID=audience (Accessed: 19 January 2014)

This week in our workshops we were looking at comedy sketches. I was put in a group with Gez and Alex and asked to look at A Traveller’s Tale by Myles Rudge; where a man and woman are on a bus in London when the woman starts removing her clothes. The man, in a desperate effort to escape leaps out the window. The whole sequence is narrated.

The immediate challenge with this script was to make it funny for a modern day audience as the humour could be classed as quite dated. I personally found the script funny in rehearsal but this doesn’t necessarily guarantee success with an audience, even one formed of my peers. We decided therefore to create caricatures out of each of the characters in order to exaggerate their comic potential. For example, for my character as the woman, we first experimented with me being overly sexual and flirty to play up to the humour proposed by the narrative. However, we found this wasn’t particularly funny, and any laughter gained was due to Gez and I as performers within the situation rather than characters. We therefore decided to try making the subject matter of taking your clothes off as normal as possible, and create a different persona. I settled for a middle aged, chatty, cockney woman. We found this worked much better as the comedy was heightened by the surreal nature of the scene. Within a perfectly normal situation, something unexpected and out of the ordinary happens, however, because it is treated so normal, an audience are able to accept it within the world of the narrative, whilst still finding it humorous. I added extra movement to the text, for example, by putting my leg up to stop Gez leaving the bus and then resting my legs on him to keep him in his seat, but in a non-sexual way, adding to the lack of normality within the scene. This technique is commonly seen in BBC Three comedy series The Mighty Boosh, where the audience are able to fully delve into a world of the utterly surreal through suspension of belief:Another problem with our text was staging. As it was set on the top deck of a bus, as well as in the world of the narrator, it was a challenge to have both of these places co-exist, especially as Gez’s character had to jump out of the window of the bus. We tackled this by having the bus scene centre stage, represented by two chairs and created the rest of the set for an audience through our body language. For example, when I got on the bus, I pretended to squeeze between seats and people. We also moved through out, as if on a moving vehicle. Alex was down stage left on a chair, close to the audience but not distracting from the main action. When Gez jumped out the window, he mimed climbing out and then ran off stage. Although this was not the best possible staging solution, it added to the comedy of the scene as it was clearly unrealistic and allowed Gez to create humour through his facial expression and style of movement, for example running off stage in a comic manor. This enhanced his characterisation of nervousness and awkwardness. If we had been given more time, I would have liked to have tried creating the bus using rostra to show higher level of the upper deck and to give him some distance to climb down.

 All in all I think our scene went very well, and our audience seem to find it funny. Our feedback was positive and I am pleased that we were able to create something comic in a short amount of time. I really enjoyed the rest of the classes work too, and through observing what it was about their performances I enjoyed, I am able to learn more myself about making a successful performance. One thing that particularly stood out to me was the importance of utter commitment to a scene. This was very clear in Scott and Claire’s group. The scene would not have worked at all if every actor had not fully committed to their characterisation and vocal decisions. The more energy and belief put it to performance, the greater the comic output.

For first practical lesson, we were asked to create a short cabaret based performance in groups using what we consider to be our individual talents as a stimulus. As our group was made up of mostly musicians and singers, we decided to go with something musical. When Louisa said she played blues on the mouth-organ, it inspired me to suggest setting our piece in a smoky, blues bar. We also decided to use an element of burlesque as Levene and I had an interest in it and thought it would complement the style. This performance atmosphere is very iconic, especially in cinema and can be seen in many films and music videos, for example in the opening to Rob Marshall’s 2002 film adaptation of the musical Chicago.

We sat our audience at small tables in groups; a technique directly taken from the cabaret genre, whilst Emily and I walked around as waitresses, adding to the club atmosphere. We began with a live performance of ‘Blue Moon’ and then moved on to getting the whole room to dance with us to a jazzy version of 50 Cent’s ‘Candy Shop’. During this song, Levene danced provocatively and threw sweets into the audience.

Although our piece was strongly founded in what we commonly consider to be cabaret, we use these foundations comically to also parody the genre. For example, all the performers, especially Levene, used exaggerated characterisation, leading to a funny and unusual experience for the audience. One member of our class remarked “I don’t know what I just saw” at the end. This made it fun to be part of and I enjoyed pretending to be drunk and dancing around with audience. I also liked our use of irony, taking the traditional meaning of the word burlesque; to parody and using it with the modern understanding of the word, therefore “burlesqueing a burlesque”.

I think our piece could have been improved through more rehearsal. As we were working in quite a large group, it was difficult to get everybody in the same place to rehearse at the same time, and once assembled difficult for all of us to stay on task. All members of the group were quite head-strong and had a lot of ideas. This at first was a great dynamic as it meant we were able to come up with an idea and start developing it quickly; usually the hardest part for me of devising work. However, it also led to problems as it was difficult to collaborate. We were all so enthusiastic about our vision for the piece that we found it hard to bring our ideas together and not try to change it to match our personal visions. Many group members tried to bring in large scale new elements during rehearsal to be more like what they wanted, however once we realised that constantly trying to elaborate on our foundations merely lead to us not creating a product, we decided to stick to our original ideas and perfect those.

Hello and welcome to my blog for my ‘Cabaret’ module. I am hugely excited to start work on a subject I have always had a passion for and I think this is a great opportunity to learn more about a style of music and performance that continues to fascinate me.

So let’s kick off with a tune from one of my favourite performers; Camille O’Sullivan with her take on Tom Wait’s Misery Is The River Of The World and orginally written as part of his score for a production of Woyzeck.

You will probably hear more about my love for this modern day cabaret artist. Her dramatic take on songs from various genres and times, coupled with the intimate, sexy style of her performance makes her epitomise everything I love about this kind of music. It is more than just lyrics but a character within a theatrical setting which is performs a musical soloique, complemented by costume changes, make up and and drinking red wine on stage.