Having dazzled Australia and the world with her virtuosity and interpretation of the classic European cabaret repertoire, Robyn Archer AO has an unparalleled artistic career. For three performances this week, Archer returns to Arts Centre Melbourne with Dancing on the Volcano – a biting satirical journey through Berlin cabaret of the 20s and 30s.
There was a moment in Germany, between the two great world wars, when cabaret thrived in an atmosphere which commentators described as ‘dancing on the volcano’. While the era began with relief that the war was over, it exploded rapidly into the worst excesses of Nazism.
A truly authentic interpretation of the repertoire, these songs written between 1919 and 1933 tell that dramatic story through a hearty dose of Brecht and Weill, Brecht and Eisler, Friedrich Hollaender (Falling in Love Again), Wilhelm Grosz (Red Sails in the Sunset), Kurt Tucholsky, Frank Wedekind, Mischa Spoliansky and more.
Teaming up with long-time musical collaborators, Michael Morley (piano) and George Butrumlis (accordion), it’s raucous, funny, and steeped in the musical harmony and political discord of the times, often frighteningly relevant to our twenty-first century world.
“It never fails to surprise us, every time we perform this repertoire, how pertinent many of the songs remain,” says Archer. “For this season for instance, we have brought back one of the hits from Brecht and Weill’s The Threepenny Opera, The Ballad of Sexual Obsession – for obvious 21st century reasons.”
“It’s a wild ride, this one, from funny songs about human behaviour at the start, to devastating commentary on what happened as Hitler rose to power, a period of just 14 years. It’s a timeless warning about how quickly things can change and how complacency is inexcusable.”
A potent and powerful performance not to be missed as one of Australia’s most celebrated performers delves deep into the dark and humorous heart of German cabaret.
Robyn Archer AO is often referred to as a national treasure. An artist of the highest calibre, her recent performances of the cabaret repertoire (French, German and American) have drawn enthusiastic audiences and high praise. She won the Helpmann Award for best Cabaret Performer 2013 and was named Cabaret Icon at the 2016 Adelaide Cabaret Festival. The Sound of Falling Stars, which she wrote and directed, is touring Australia in 2018 to standing ovations.
In addition to her award-winning, one-woman shows, Robyn is also known and admired as the Artistic Director of memorable arts festivals in Canberra, Melbourne, Adelaide and Tasmania. She has recorded 12 albums and her writing includes essays, songs, works for the theatre and children’s books. Robyn currently chairs HOTA Home of the Arts, Gold Coast and the Master of Arts (Cultural Leadership) at NIDA.
She is an ABR Laureate, an Honorary Fellow of the Australian Academy for the Humanities, an Officer of the Order of Australia, Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (France) and Officer of the Crown (Belgium) and also holds honorary doctorates from Flinders University (South Australia), Griffith University (Queensland) and the Universities of Sydney, Canberra and Adelaide.
Robyn Archer: Dancing on the Volcano
Fairfax Studio – Arts Centre Melbourne, 100 St. Kilda Road, Melbourne
Performances: 9 – 11 July 2018
Information and Bookings: www.artscentremelbourne.com.au
Image: George Gittoes, Robyn Archer 1990 (detail), oil on canvas, Collection: National Portrait Gallery, Canberra. Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program 2012.