Michael Trauffer brings an elegant slice of cabaret to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe with his triumphant Fabulett 1933 which runs at theSpaceUK’s Surgeon’s Hall. Blending original music numbers with period songs from the twenties and thirties, as well as heartfelt storytelling, Michael transports us to the final days of one of Germany’s most deliciously depraved cabarets.
Created and performed by Trauffer with musical accompaniment by James Hall, we witness the final night before the Fabulett must close its doors. Dubbed as a venue which promotes immorality, emcee Felix guides the club’s regulars through a night of autobiographical stories of himself as a son, soldier and lover, paired with heartfelt song.
Trauffer’s passion is evident, embodying the role of Felix with a giddy vibrancy – his adoration for the world of cabaret apparent within the character. We gain an insight into the emotional backstory of the larger than life emcee through stories and songs, allowing the performer to further invest us in the heartfelt core of what the Fabulett celebrates. There’s a deeply personal tale of Felix, a young queer person, gaining no love or affection from his father at the core of Fabulett 1933. Stories of Felix’s father see his son treated with a coldness and distain shown when his son experiments with costume or showcases emotion – his only moment of pride in his son being when he was conscripted to the army during the Great War.
Yet the icy detachment from Felix’s father is a far cry from the warmth and support shown by his mother, who gifts him with an ‘invisibility hat’, an escape from the coldness and cruelty of the world. This leads nicely into a powerful ballad Invisible which Trauffer delivers with an impressive vocal skill, whilst evoking the emotional weight of the track.
Blending cabaret songs and personal narrative allows Fabulett 1933 to give an insight into the history of Germany at the time. With the Weimar Government soon to crumble, the emergence of the far right is beginning to be felt with Felix sharing the hypocrisy of high profile Nazis frequenting the club which they are soon to shut down. Felix explores the previous freedoms of Weimar Germany stripped away and extremist change soon beginning to take hold in the nation – the public burning of the books from the German National Library and the destruction of the Magnus Hirschfeld Institute on gender science. Videos of such devastation are projected behind Trauffer on screen, further transporting us to a Germany where far right extremism is gradually becoming normalised.
Further music is spurred by Felix’s story of an unrequited love with musical numbers Everybody Needs a Little Love and Oh, He’s Hating That I Love Him conveying the emcee’s heated romantic affair. With these musical compositions and choices, Trauffer does an impressive job at conjuring up the atmosphere of a classic cabaret club, whilst also successfully advancing the narrative and allowing the audience to form an emotional attachment to Felix.
Trauffer’s Felix is a well-crafted protagonist, allowing us to witness a human embodiment of the freedoms allowed by the Weimar Government – freedoms that are subsequently under threat with the rise of the National Socialists. Sexually liberated and living his truth in the Fabulett, the closure of the club is representative of the end of these freedoms from this previously liberally progressive part of history. Trauffer makes important points about the importance of fighting for the freedoms of one another and avoiding extremism, the contemporary resonance of his creation Fabulett 1933 effortlessly shining through.
Crafting an atmosphere of a classic cabaret, yet investing us in a narrative that captures the human cost of the rise of the far right, Fabulett 1933 is a compelling piece of theatre.