songs from '33(a kabarett)
"laughter and jaw-dropping physicality... a must see."
-Theatre Jones, Dallas
"an incredible one-man show....brilliant acting."
- PBS America
"he will have you close to tears one moment and laughing the next - an absolute joy to watch."
- New Orleans Defender Magazine
"Duthie... is utterly arresting as the vanquished impresario of a ruined cabaret"
"Duthie’s vocal and acting chops are both incredibly impressive, covering everything from a crass comedy routine to mournful songs of loss and desperation. The result is an entire variety show of undeniable entertainment."
- Vue Magazine, Canada
"a truly mesmerizing piece of theatre"
- Edmonton Journal
"...it’s all really quite beautiful to behold. Shows like this don’t happen very often, folks."
- The Visitorium, Canada
"A gem of a show"
- Orlando Sentinel
" And my god, does he ever sing. Bremner's performance is jaw-dropping-my jaw literally dropped"
- View Magazine, Canada
"Bremner Duthie has.... a voice of power and inner beauty that commands the whole space..... One feels like being seduced by the sheer power and beauty of this performance"
- Musical Stages Magazine, UK
"The power of Duthie's voice keeps the audience glued to his performance with applause after applause as each song is laid to rest. Singing in multiple languages and executing them to convey the emotion to the audience, not the actual words, shows artistic and masterful craftsmanship."
- Plank Magazine, Canada
"This show honestly has something for everyone, from songs crooned masterfully to raunchy humour and sharp commentary. Particularly haunting (and effective) is Duthie’s use of props, like shoes and wigs, to represent those who have been purged before him—a stunning allusion to holocaust museums the world over. In the end, I cannot stress enough how strong Duthie is in this masterfully constructed play
- London Fringe Review, Canada
"Bremner Duthie, whose credits include a hit Kurt Weill cabaret, is the real thing. He’s an intense and expert singer — and more than that, performer— of the ’30s repertoire, in English, French, German, Yiddish. "
- Edmonton Sun, Canada
"When he sings, his voice is like a big, dark, sultry room --full of emotive and expressive possibilities. Even when Duthie sings in languages other than English, the passion and subtext come startlingly alive."
- The Georgia Straight, Vancouver
"Listening to Duthie sing is like sipping hot chocolate topped with cream, sitting on a sun terrace high up in the French Alps, snow all around."
- Theatreworld Magazine, London, England
Theatre Jones, Dallas, Texas
Bremner Duthie's extraordinary solo show, about a German performer in 1933 who knows the show must go on, is a must-see.Dallas — In the face of oppression, creating art can be an important form of protest, and entertaining audiences invaluable. That’s the idea behind Bremner Duthie’s extraordinary solo show ’33: A Kabarett, which closes the Dallas Solo Fest today.
Set in a Weimar Republic cabaret in 1933, as Hitler is at the beginning of his rise to power, Duthie arrives at the establishment, flashlight illuminating the dark hallway and stage, to realize that security forces have taken his cultural colleagues. But there’s an audience—us. What else can he do but his job?
He’s a song-and-dance man, a clown with a mean streak and then a showgirl, breathlessly dedicated to giving the audience their money’s worth.
That he does.
With original direction by Dave Dawson and new direction by Joseph Furnari, it’s an incredibly physical and high-energy performance, as Duthie changes costumes and personas, commedia-style, from an oversized suit to the red nose and clown pants, and then adding a yellow tulle tutu before going back to the suit just before he exits. By the time that happens, he's not sure if his performance has been effective—or if he’ll ever have the chance to entertain again. But damn if he didn't give it his all.
Between stories that elicit both laughter and terror, simulatenously filled with hope and hopelessness, he sings in a haunting growl of a voice such songs as Noel Coward’s “20th Century Blues,” “Falling in Love Again,” "We're in the Money" and Kurt Weill’s “Mack the Knife.” (You can listen to his "20th Century Blues" below, and the album of this show is available online.)
One selection, “Our Village is Burning” by Mordechai Gebirtig, was part of the inspiration for this show, and it’s devastating. In Hitler’s Germany, the eradication of Jews, homosexuals and others was on the horizon, but he started with artists, anyone who might use their art to subversively, or blatantly, speak out against injustice.
Amidst the laughter and jaw-dropping physicality, ’33: A Kabarett has a gut-wrenching message about the purification of artists. In this case, that meant unspeakable death and destruction, but the thought of what would happen if artists and entertainers stopped doing what they do is frightening. That’s a world no one wants to live in.
Duthie reminds us that the passion of those who must create will never let that happen.
'33 (a kabarett) at Static Age Theatre, Asheville
Bremner Duthie’s one-man melodrama '33 (a kabarett) is a timeless journey into grief and a grim warning against oppression of expression. Set in a fictional world that draws its character and smoke from 1930’s Europe, it’s a story that the audience is made to feel is very much happening in present day.
Duthie’s tortured performance begins in the dark — a perfect introduction, for every beat that follows is painted with the black brush of tragedy. One by one, Duthie’s character, the last remaining of a troupe of activist Kabarett performers, introduces us to his lost companions by stripping off his own clothes for the skin and voices of the dead.
Featuring standards from Kurt Weill, Stephen Sondheim, and other songwriters of the invoked era, Duthie seamlessly intertwines dramatic dialogue with song and character, slipping in and out of personas, accents, and languages with a grace and rhythm that feels like verbal ballet. The surreal storytelling is a bit hard to grasp at first, and the premise of a mysterious audience just showing up to a ransacked theater and expecting a show is a hard leap to make. But Duthie’s performance simmers until it becomes hot coals of engrossing drama, culminating in a haunting performance of “Mack the Knife” so visceral that the rough cut of his blade can be felt in the pit of one’s stomach.
'33 (a kabarett) is dark and beautiful, and performed with a perfect balance of boldness and humility. Be sure to catch its encore performance at Static Age" — Richard Bergh
Jon W Sparks, Theatre Critic, Memphis
I managed to wangle my way out of evening rehearsal today and made a beeline to NOLA's Art Klub, a black box where glorious things happen. The proprietor, Reese Johanson, arranged with her friend Bremner Sings (Bremner Duthie) to present his one-person cabaret act.
This was the kind of adult entertainment I required tonight: a searing, lovely, brutal, glorious, inventive show in the style of the notorious German cabarets of, to be exact, 1933.
Doing compelling cabaret is difficult to pull off well, and anybody doing a 70- to 80-minute solo show of any kind (but especially as a Kabarettisten) had better have talent to match the ambition. Dear Lord, Duthie has all that and more in "'33 (a kabarett)," which he wrote because he has this passion for the time, a gift for the songs of the day, and the extraordinary ability to master the details of singing, dancing, and physical movement, with overlays of wit, panic, fear, anger, and love.
The show is smashing. Freshly empowered Nazis amplify the murder of culture, going quickly after easy targets like the hugely popular Berlin Kabaretts. Goering's thugs refined their brutality by eliminating the scandalous performers of satire, song, and comedy. Duthie's lone survivor comes back to the trashed stage and, through his grief and guilt, brings their stories back to life. His voice was made for this, beautiful and powerful.
Every song hits the mark, often like a gut-punch ("Our Town is Burning), and sometimes with a horrific beauty (his "Mack the Knife" is stunning).
Bremner is doing "'33 (a kabarett)," again Saturday night (Dec. 1). The place deserves to be packed.
The National Post, Canada
"... this is one of those completely unexpected gems, and boy does it set the bar high for the rest of my festival viewing. It’s supposed to be a rundown theatre that has been ransacked by the police and the dishevelled mess on the stage speaks volumes about the violence that left it in this condition. By the end of the show you realize every piece of clothing and every prop was carefully placed to allow Duthie to tell his story.
Duthie is the impresario of this shuttered theatre, still wearing his white face grotesque clown make up, and he’s rightfully surprised and dismayed to discover an audience. Theatre has been outlawed in this new totalitarian regime, at least his kind of theatre is. As he tries to compose himself, Duthie sings snippets of songs in several languages. He tries to hide his terror with wit and songs but eventually he wipes off his make up and bemoans what happened to the rest of the cabaret troupe.
He finds a pair of blue dance shoes, puts them on and shows us glimpses of the young Spanish dancer who had his feet crushed and legs broken, perhaps because he was a homosexual, but this is never confirmed. Duthie strips and changes into a clown outfit and finds a clown nose to introduce us to the Brooklyn stand-up comic whose political routines were his death knell. To tell the story of the group’s sexy songstress, Duthie puts on one of her gowns and sings a show-stopping version of Stephen Sondheim’s I Never Do Anything Twice and you just know he was smitten with more than her talent.
Duthie keeps warning the audience that we are in danger simply for being in the theatre because all art is now controlled by the government and this evening’s entertainment would certainly rank as subversive. We could suppose that Duthie has taken us back to Nazi Germany, but that would be too easy. We’re in any totalitarian regime, anywhere at any time in history, perhaps our own. Duthie’s ’33(a Kabarett) looks at the function of art and theatre in a repressive regime imploring us to safeguard the liberties our artists still have.
Skip ’33(a Kabarett) at your own peril.
Fringe theatre, nay theatre itself, doesn’t get much better."
The Visitorium, Ottawa
" ’33 – A KABARETT, written by and starring the bloody amazing Bremner Duthie, and directed by local hero Dave Dawson.... this beautiful piece, set in a ruined theatre during the rise of the Nazi regime... begins with a performer emerging onto the stage in darkness, shaking, terrified, scanning the remnants of his stage with a flashlight, and surprised to discover an audience, waiting for a show. And what a show we do get, based loosely on the real-life fate of the Eldorado Theatre. Torn between an urgent desire to flee and the ‘show must go on’ impulse, Bremner’s emcee character reluctantly tells us the story of his Kabarett’s fall at the hands of authoritarianism, through song, dance, and a little more song. And the songs…folks, you have not LIVED until you’ve heard Bremner Fletcher Duthie sing ‘Mack the Knife’ to you. He has a gift for taking these classics and weaving them beautifully into his plays, and he’s getting better and better at it, from what I can tell. With a few costume changes, musings on the nature of art vs. the state, and a goddamn gorgeous voice, Bremner guides us through despair and terror, oppression and hopelessness, and into something else entirely…it’s all really quite beautiful to behold. Shows like this don’t happen very often, folks."
"Bremner Duthie’s one-man musical show, ’33 (A Kabarett).... grows and blossoms into a truly mesmerizing piece of theatre. Shows with Holocaust/Nazi themes are never easy to pull off successfully. Done poorly, they can become cloying and cliché. Done well, they can be too dark and disturbing for audience comfort. But Duthie works a little bit of dramatic magic, as the embittered Master of Ceremonies of a Weimar cabaret, hiding from the Nazi authorities in his abandoned theatre, as war rages. Most of the narrator’s former colleagues have already fallen victim to Hitler’s homicidal regime – some because they’re Jewish, others simply because they are “decadents” and rebels, outspoken artists who wouldn’t stay quiet.
Our M.C. narrator, ironically, has survived thus far by keeping his mouth shut. When we first meet him, he comes across as whiny and self-dramatizing and frankly not very likeable. Then, one by one, he brings each of his fallen comrades to life – the macho, sensual Spanish dancer, the offensively brilliant, and brilliantly offensive, Brooklyn stand-up comic, and the sexually generous torch singer, a women whose stage presence was so captivating, no one noticed she was actually quite ugly. Each tiny portrait comes to life with ferocious energy held in ferocious check.
And it’s all strung together with music from the 1930s, from Kurt Weill to Friedrich Holländer t0 Gershwin. Duthie channels a classic cabaret singer’s voice - his authentically menacing rendition of Mack the Knife will sand-blast the Bobby Darrin treacle from your ears, and his Falling in Love Again, sung in both German and English, has just the right touch of Marlene Dietrich/Blue Angel gravel. But the most astonishing performance is when he assumes the persona of the cabaret’s lost chanteuse, the woman he loved, and sings a smoldering version of Stephen Sondheim’s wicked I Never Do Anything Twice. The song is totally ahistorical, of course- yet it feels exactly right.
The cleverest part of Duthie’s show, though, is the way the script offers subtle, shadowy shout-outs to the political situation of today. Without ham-fistedly comparing the political leaders of the moment to Hitler, Duthie quietly compels us to reflect on our own complicity in the security culture around us. His delicately subversive show finally asks us to ask ourselves this question – if we say nothing, if we stay silent, when we see civil liberties eroded in the name of preserving homeland security and moral values, how complicit are we in the evils of others? As our craven narrator/hero finally finds his courage and finds his voice, he challenges us to do the same."
Broadway Baby - FIVE STARS
"Far from the madding crowd (and the Royal Mile), the Hill Street Theatre is hosting one of the most haunting, gut-wrenching pieces of theatre at the Fringe this year. Equal parts monologue and cabaret act, '33 (A Kabarett) follows a nameless ‘vanquished impresario’ of a Berlin nightclub, his makeup smeared and his costume trunk upended, as he relives the destruction of his sometime home, his friends, and his audiences: all slaughtered one-by-one, he tells us, by the incoming Nazi regime. We must flee to save ourselves, the MC tells us – he too must avoid the mistakes made by his departed friends and learn to ‘blend in’ with the new world order.
But first, he must honour those he has lost, and honour them he does; assuming the roles of song-and-dance man Rodrigo, Brooklyn-born clown Milton, and a departed female lover in turn, performing songs and routines in a series of melancholy elegies for their world gone by. ‘I Never Do Anything Twice’ is a particular highlight here, as is an extended stand-up sequence told in the throaty fuggedaboutit-ese of Milton, whose humor masks a barely contained rage at the injustice overtaking his adopted city.Written and performed with breathtaking stamina by Bremner Duthie, '33 is compelling throughout. While at times the dialogue and acting borders on the self-consciously mannered (this is very much an actor's monologue) such stylisation nevertheless works well for the performative setting; we are never allowed to forget that we are, after all, in the world of the cabaret.
Other Fringe cabarets might be sexier, more glamorous, performed with more sequins and sparkle. But for sheer emotion, unvarnished and raw, Duthie's evocation of a vanished world is more than worth the trek to the Hill Street Theatre. It'd be worth a flight to Berlin."
"Duthie’s riveting show – it’s about the suppression of culture that inevitably accompanies the slow creep of authoritarianism – focuses on the emcee of a now-closed cabaret. “They called us a threat to public morality,” he tells us. The emcee pays broken-hearted tribute to his old friends the cabaret performers by reenacting some of their songs and routines. We are the audience, both literally and within Duthie’s story. The performers, ghosts really, include a torch singer of easy virtue to whom Duthie, bare-chested and wearing a skirt, gives poignant voice. More disquieting is a red-nosed clown modeled on Jimmy Durante. He insults the audience and thumbs his nose at the authorities in classic 1930s cabaret style before morphing into a speechifying demagogue driving home a message about morality and family values that echoes the tone of the Republican leadership race in the United States (in the post-show talkback, Duthie said he’d stitched together that part of the script using scraps from one of Hitler’s rants and snippets of a Tea Party speech). Elsewhere, Duthie gives us snatches of song and half-completed sentences in several languages. It’s as though he’s reminding us that language in the hands of power-hungry rulers is a dangerous tool, one that can rob us of our freedom of expression and leave us as broken as the songs and sentences he utters.... Aside from the title, the 1930s-era songs and some references, there’s little about the show that links it specifically to pre-war Germany. Which is Duthie’s point: we have to always be on guard against the powerful and our own urge to capitulate. As the emcee says ominously earlier in the show, referencing Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, “They’re going to make it nice. Everything will run on time – the trains, you.”
" ’33 is a gem of a show, frozen in a moment in time—the rise of fascism in the 1930s—but also beautiful frozen in that moment between rational thought and madness. Haunted, Bremner Duthie steps carefully around a deserted cabaret theater where overturned suitcases and discarded frocks remind him of his theater friends. He questions how tyranny can be allowed to flourish: “Why now?” he asks. “Because they can. Because no one says anything anymore.” The recollections of his friends—taken by “them”—spur songs in Duthie’s rich voice: an eerie “We’re in the Money,” a disturbing “Mack the Knife,” among them. Most telling (and most frightening): A monologue about how the whole world will be one happy family (when those who aren’t wanted are removed), delivered against a backdrop of “Ode to Joy”—which has never sounded so sinister before. This engrossing cabaret of the shadows comes with a warning as Duthie’s emcee character ponders removing his individuality and just blending in. After all, he says, if he dresses in “normal” clothes, no one will know the difference. “They don’t tattoo artists…” he whispers, “…yet.”
"In 1933 Berlin, after every member of his troupe has been arrested, the emcee gives snippets of each act and provides the reasons the Nazis feared each. Bremner Duthie has a great voice...... His writing is even more powerful as his comedian bitingly comments on the audience and the state of Nazi society. This was the fourth best rated of the 152 shows reviewed on Fringe Fan."
"An extraordinary performance..... a staggering one man performance capturing the era poignantly and emotionally.... definitely worth a ticket....
“The sound of the marching of jack-booted troopers permeates ‘33, Bremner Duthie’s oddly gripping tribute to French and German cabaret during the Nazi years of the late 1930s. You can’t always hear the ominous sounds of boots outside the door. But, as Duthie sings his songs, you know that they’re there…..Duthie himself, with his shaved head, haunted face and gorgeously delicate baritone, is utterly arresting as the vanquished impresario of a ruined cabaret, haltingly gathering his paltry things together before he tries to escape into the dark...”
London Theatre Festival
Best Show Impresario Award
Best Actor in Festival
London Theatre Festival Blog Reviews
--“Plays focusing on Germany at the rise of Hitler are a risky business, as there’s simply such a massive amount of material based on this terrible time in history. The result of this glut is a slew of performances that fall to clichés and stereotypes, using tired old tropes to play out a horror we can’t (and shouldn’t) stop telling ourselves. But this cabaret is not one of those shows. Duthie delivers a stellar performance in this show that focuses on the last remaining performer from a cabaret deemed “perverse” by the ruling party. This show honestly has something for everyone, from songs crooned masterfully to raunchy humour and sharp commentary. Particularly haunting (and effective) is Duthie’s use of props, like shoes and wigs, to represent those who have been purged before him—a stunning allusion to holocaust museums the world over.
In the end, I cannot stress enough how strong Duthie is in this masterfully constructed play—he brings the perfect amount of energy and emotion to the scenes to portray a broken and scared man, grown weary in a nation gone mad.”
--“This isn't a fun show, and it won't make you feel good. But what it will do - and extremely successfully, too - is take your breath away. From the disheveled set to the actor, in tears from the start of the show, it sets the scene on the time and the place, and draws the audience in. The singing was intentionally raw (this is a good thing - he truly sounded as if his heart was breaking) and the actor seamlessly moves between German, French and even Yiddish. Go see this show.”
--“Bremner Duthie brings an expressive baritone voice, filled with musical and dramatic range, and a wonderful use of physicality (whether he's walking, posing, or soft-shoeing) to the stage of the McManus. He can whisper, belt out show-tune style, tremble, soar, and his choice of interpretations (both vocal choices and the musical arrangements) left me in awe at times, going "Who would ever thought you could do THAT song THAT way?" Classic songs reinterpreted in new contexts include "Falling in Love Again" and "Mack the Knife". A riveting, intentionally disturbing, vulnerable, brash, sensitive performance. "
Montreal Theatre Festival Festival Blog Reviews
--FIVE STARS --"This is the best show I've seen so far. Crosses the line between touching and gut wrenching. The character is beautifully developed. Compelling performance that speaks to darker themes without losing it's sparkle. A must see for Brecht lovers or anyone with an interest in the political history of theatre. A touching love song to a bygone era"
--FOUR STARS -- "A must-see! This show combines music, nostalgia, tragedy, comedy, and cross-dressing into a one-of-a-kind experience."
--FIVE STARS -- "Absolutely wonderful. (And I can be a hard sell on cabaret!) Loved the dark melancholy mood, and the political parallels arguing what it means to be an artist in uncertain times. HIGHLY recommended!"
Vue Magazine, Edmonton Canada
"Set amongst the turmoil of Nazi Germany, the one-man musical spectacle of ’33 (a kabarett) is a stunning theatrical accomplishment. Using nothing but a microphone and a few props scattered around the stage, Bremner Duthie works his way through costume changes, song and dance numbers, a myriad of character transformations and an entire spectrum of emotions—all while openly including the audience as active participants in the show. Duthie’s vocal and acting chops are both incredibly impressive, covering everything from a crass comedy routine to mournful songs of loss and desperation. The result is an entire variety show of undeniable entertainment."
Edmonton Journal (2nd review)
"The theatre is trashed. The stage is strewn with stray costume pieces, a shoe here, an overturned chair there. And a grotesque figure, white of face and red of lip, stands before us, poised to exit stage left.
He’s the MC, the broken impresario of a now-vanished Weimar cabaret, evidently traumatized by the destruction that surrounds him. When he discovers us, an audience brave or foolhardy enough to defy the curfew imposed by the oppressive new regime, the MC is moved to conjure his fallen castmates: the sneering clown, the tarnished showgirl, the dancer, and the rest. Wilkommen, bienvenue, welcome to the kabarett — a ghostly entertainment conjured for us by its sole survivor.
Bremner Duthie, whose credits include a hit Kurt Weill cabaret, is the real thing. He’s an intense and expert singer — and more than that, performer— of the ’30s repertoire, in English, French, German, Yiddish. “I don’t speak any language any more.” He gives a sardonic grin, cutting edges, and the sense of a lost era to Boulevard of Broken Dreams, say, or Thanks For The Memories. He makes Noel Coward’s arch little ditty Why Must The Show Go On? a question worth asking, and Lover Come Back To Me an act of mourning. Mac The Knife is a veritable slash of dissonance and horror.
The songs are outstanding, animated as they are by a chilling premise. And this kabarett has a grubby, lived-in look and feel about it. I wonder, though, if the extreme emotional pitch of the overwrought character onstage, teetering tragically on the edge of tears, doesn’t grow a bit repetitious between songs. Like fury, histrionic despair is a tricky posture to sustain for an entire show. And the point that it’s the artist’s job to cross boundaries, take risks and defy authority is one the MC makes rather explicitly, again and again.
The songs, and the staging, slide the knife in from deadlier, oblique angles."