Writer: Lee Hithersay
Reviewer: Daryl Holden
How could a piece that involves cabaret, a time machine and a strip-teasing squirrel be anything but an extraordinary night out? Cabaret at the end of the Universe aims to answer just that in agonising detail.
Cabaret at the end of the Universe offers its debut performance in Liverpool, fresh from its sell-out run in Edinburgh. Don’t worry though, if you didn’t catch that fact at the start of the show, you’ll definitely not miss it the next dozen times it’s mentioned. The differences between the small and homely crowd that 81 Renshaw Street offers and the Wild West-like atmosphere that is found only at the Edinburgh Fringe are something that the cast takes delight in pointing out, especially when something doesn’t quite harness the reaction that they were expecting. And this happens a lot, making you wonder just what it was the show seems to have lost in the 176 miles between the two cities.
The acts are a strange mix of the odd and the even more absurd, with even the hosts of the evening never truly knowing what it is they’ve let on stage. Some time slots are far too short-lived, while other are far too overdrawn, the idea of a middle ground never seems to have been brought up in the creation of this piece.
Make no mistake, at times the show is quite funny and endearing, but it never seems to be intentionally so. The madness of improvisation that makes up the cabaret’s backbone means that chaos reigns and no one is ever truly in charge. In turn, this makes for a disorientating ordeal for the audience whenever someone actually attempts to take control only for it to crumble at their feet again and again.
This is the kind of thing that fills the gaps between the acts themselves, chaos. As Dickie Benson, one of the show’s hosts rightly says throughout the course of the cabaret, it’s their attempt at pandering, at filling up the time slot, which is an apt description for the show as a whole. This, coupled with the fact that still, after a three-hour sitting, Dolly Rodgers, the cabarets other compere is asking the audience if they’re ready to go home, before introducing yet another act, leads you to wonder if this is in fact, the biggest joke of the evening.
Perhaps it was the fact that none of the acts were ever specific to any time period, or, perhaps more accurately, the notion of a time machine being powered by the individual cheers of each audience member that makes the gimmick of time travel feel lacklustre. Either way, it is a culmination of all of these factors, which ultimately leaves the impression that if this is what awaits us at the end of the universe, be glad that it’s still a few billion years away.
Reviewed on 22 September 2017