Berlin has been called the Capital of Cabaret and a top priority of our Expedia Blogger Shaped Travel trip was to take in a live show. But even as we picked up the tickets, we had no idea how much we’d be drawn into the spectacle of the Loft at the Chamaleon Theatre…
We hurtle down the icy pavements, sliding on the glassy surface and dodging pedestrians. We are late for the theatre and our Googlemap has taken us down a blind alley.
When we reach Berlin’s Chamaleon Theatre, we are shunted from main entrance to box office and back again. “I’m sorry. The show has now started,” says the girl on the door. I’m not surprised; I half expected to be turned away. But then she points us up some stairs. “If you wait up there with my colleague, he will show you in during a break in the performance in ten minutes.”
We are just glad to get into the warmth. It’s minus ten outside and our fingers and toes have lost the will to move. We bundle out of our coats as our cheeks start to flush, and watch the show on a video monitor in the stairwell. ‘Loft,’ by Seven Fingers, explores the concept of a group of seven people living together in a loft space. If it sounds like some kind of student hell; that’s what it looks like on the screen too. One person is in the bath, while another rides a mop like a broomstick doing Harry Potter spells and the others lounge around on comfy chairs or the floor. I was expecting Cirque du Soleil, not The Young Ones.
On the monitor, I watch a phone ring on a desk. It seems to wake up the house manager standing next to me who leads us to a tiny door. “When I knock on this, you go in and someone will show you to your seat. OK?”
I nod to show I’ve understood and he knocks. The phone is still ringing, louder now. Someone picks it up and says “Who’s there?” The door opens and I blink in the light. A woman takes my hand and leads me onto a stage, with Stuart and the kids following behind. I shield my eyes and try to look beyond the spotlights. In a darkened auditorium surrounded by red velvet drapes, 200 audience members laugh.
A petite actor shakes my hand and asks my name. Another offers me a pretzel telling me I am welcome in her home. I turn around and look back at the door. We have just come in from the cold through their fridge. I’m feeling a little overdressed. Everyone on stage is in an informal uniform of vest and pants. I’m really hoping no one asks me to get comfortable. But at least my pants are more attractive than their white thermal efforts.
This loft may be populated by seven Canadians, all former Cirque du Soleil artists, but the show is classic Berlin cabaret. Cabaret has its roots in Berlin since before the World Wars and has made several renaissances in the city. There are two types; travestie which is revue in drag, and varieté – a mix of, humour, circus clowning, gymnastics, acrobatics, juggling and dance. Loft falls into the second category.
The stage is intimate; hung with sheets and underwear and all the detritus of a group of friends sharing a flat together. The cabaret style seating, with waiters wandering round taking drinks orders, adds to the chill out atmosphere. But there’s nothing relaxed about what’s going on in the loft. A man spins slowly on a stool, his entire body in a line above him, supporting himself on just one hand. Another juggles household objects, and manages somehow to make them freeze on his limbs. The men chuck the women in the air and then catch them as if they are Barbie Dolls. The gymnastics are a standard you’d find in Olympic heats. The dance takes your breath away. The juggling…well, how does he DO that? It’s lighthearted cabaret and yet it’s something more. A reminder of what you can do with the human body. A reminder that in Berlin nothing is what it seems. A reminder that even in a grotty old flat you can be more than your surroundings dictate.
But the pull of this show (and it slowly seduces you) is that it’s ultimately about the ordinary. The four women and three men continually squabble, compete, play, do stupid Dad dancing, put lampshades on their head and push each other around in the bath. They fall in love and out of it. Every item of furniture becomes a prop or launch pad for their activities.
As the evening draws to a close, they take a cake out of the oven and share it with their guests, wandering up and down the aisles with plates. It all tells us that despite the acrobatics and gymnastics, despite the honed bodies and deceptively rubbish pants, despite a world class show in one of the most visited cities on the globe, and despite having the ultimate in a walk in fridge, they are just normal people like you or me.
In the city of Berlin, nothing is quite what you expect.
If you want to see more of our impressions of Loft check out our Punkt! video clip taken after the show.
Disclosure Note: Our thanks to Expedia for providing the tickets to Loft as part of their Blogger Shaped Travel Competition.