Review by Matthew Hocter
Bernadette Byrne has come along way since her days in London as one half of the EastEnd Cabaret comedy duo formed with friend, Victoria Falconer-Pritchard. Now going by the stage name Bernie Dieter (Dieter being an homage to her late Oma’s maiden name) and leaving such questionable songs by the duo like “Dangerwank” firmly in her past, Dieter’s assent to solo Cabaret artist has been long and varied.
In her first solo show at The Adelaide Cabaret Festival, Bernie Dieter’s Weimar Punk felt at home in the intimate setting of the festival theatre’s banquet room. Complete with all guests seated at tables catering to no more than four people, Dieter and her band sought to recreate the cabaret theme more than many other shows this season and succeeded.
There is a saying that I heard many years ago when speaking with a fellow journalist in Sydney. “Comparison kills creativity. Stop comparing and start creating.” Whilst I feel this can be applied to many situations, at times one must draw comparisons, especially when it’s for arts sake. Dieter, whose show is reminiscent of another cabaret artist I had seen just a week earlier, at times felt like a sort of “lite” version of said artist. Intentional or not, there were far too many similarities that it was hard to ignore at times, very obvious comparisons that most definitely belong to the genre, but could have so easily been more personalized.
There were beautiful stories of her late Oma and the family circus and German heavy references coupled with a Deutscher accent, which were things I could relate too, having been raised in part by my own Oma and Opa. The stories felt familiar for all those of German heritage and the nuance that often comes along with that (Post WWII, East & West Germany), but even if you couldn’t relate culturally, your love for Weimar Cabaret would have allowed for a commonality to take hold of you and connect to Dieter’s character and story telling.
Billed as “straight from the salacious back rooms of Berlin” and complete with a massive neon sign saying “Berlin,” Dieters many sexual innuendos sought to defy an all to puritanical state of the world we now find ourselves in. There was a humility about Dieter that contradicted her bawdy persona as she sauntered through the crowd preying on the mature men with such idioms like “sexy specsy” and “fifty shades of grey,” it wasn’t long before they were eating out of her hand and attempting to lift her back onto the stage. All ordered by her; of course.
Dieter delivered some musical moments like Marlene Dietrich’s “Ich hab’ noch einen Koffer in Berlin” and a brilliant reinterpretation of Billy Idol’s “Midnight Hour,” which not only surprised me, but allowed me to see Dieter’s talent, sans schmutzig, which was refreshing and only did her favors.
Dieter is still honing her craft and with a solid following, both here in Australia and overseas, I have no doubt it won’t be long before Dieter’s Cabaret gets more fine tuning and articulated story telling, allowing her to completely flourish in a genre that birthed legends like Minelli and LuPone, something that Cabaret has not seen for a very long time now.