Review by Carmel Shortall
It’s not often that Camden pubs thrill to the strains of Hang Out Your Washing on the Siegfried Line but Sirens & Songs, premiering at the Camden Fringe, has brought WWII favourites to the (Black) Heart of Camden. Marika Rauscher and Paul Engers are taking Cabaret back to its roots in their new show while exploring Cabaret’s links with Burlesque and examining the emotional power of song to bring people together.
For the show, the upstairs room at the Black Heart has been transformed into a cafe anywhere in Europe between the late 1930s and mid 1940s: red velvet curtains and candlelit tables with red and white checked tablecloths add to the ambience. Marika is dressed in black jacket, hotpants, boots and, of course, nylons. Her hair is in a neat liberty roll.
Paul is dressed in tails as every good master of ceremonies should be. He introduces the show and provides links between the songs creating a narrative in which “the ability to connect people through strands of emotion” is explored.
The musical part of the show opens boisterously enough with Marika belting out Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy From Company B. She leaves the stage and works the floor – warning: there will be ‘sitting on knees’– and Paul’s not shy either.
At one point, the lights go out and the air raid siren sounds. Paul stumbles through the tables, flashing a torch and coughing from smoke inhalation. He asks us if we’re all right – what we need is a good sing-song.
Marika’s strong soprano takes us through such classics as Je Ne Regrette Rien and Lili Marlene sung in their original languages, as well as Wish Me Luck As You Wave Me Goodbye, In the Mood and We’ll Meet Again (singing along to the chorus is mandatory in this one).
Before Marika sings La Vie En Rose, Paul muses on “the sending of a letter as a sensuous moment” in a time before the internet and ‘mobile telecommunications devices’ – he gingerly picks one up from a table to show us.
All too soon, Paul receives a telegram. It’s bad news: the show is over and we have to head back to 2011 with the aforementioned Hang Out Your Washing on the Siegfried Line playing in the background.
Sirens & Songs is short at only 45 minutes – I, for one, would have enjoyed a much longer show and there is scope for this as it is so much more than a playlist of classic wartime songs, beautifully sung.
If you get the chance, do go along to Sirens & Songs – it is a wonderful, atmospheric show and one of the gems of the 2011 Camden Fringe. It is playing tonight at 7.30pm and again at 7.30pm on Wednesday 10th and Thursday 11th of August; there is also a matinee on Saturday 13th at 2.30pm. The Black Heart is only two minutes walk from Camden tube on Greenland Place, off Camden Road, or the High Street End of Greenland Road. Prices are £7.50 or £6.50 concs. Click here to book.