singing into the dark 1933
a one-man weimar musical
"laughter and jaw-dropping physicality... a must see."
-Theatre Jones, Dallas
"an incredible one-man show....
- PBS America
In 2012, I made a show about an actor forced into exile after the destruction of his theatre and the arrest of his friends by an brutal dictator. I called it ‘33(a kabarett). I wrote it inspired by the fate of the Eldorado Club in Berlin in 1933. The Eldorado had music, theatre and was a welcoming space for the LGBTQ community. The club was raided, taken over by the Nazis and used as a local headquarters. But, for my show, I took out any reference to the Nazis or the time or the place. I ended up performing it around the world, across the USA, in Europe, in Russia, in ex-Soviet states and three times in Ukraine.
At each performance, the audience would decide who was responsible for the attacks. It was humbling to talk to people after each performance as they explained to me who the play was referencing. I had thought it was history, but for those audiences it was relevant and immediate. Audiences in Eastern Europe, Russia and the ex-soviet states had no problem relating to the specter of a dictator who would cancel ideas and culture in the most brutal way.
I never imagined, when I was hanging out with my new friends in Kiev and Chernihiv and Khmelnytskyy that their own amazing hopes and dreams would be under attack in the same way.
If you want to see more of the performance, filmed live in the beautiful Opera House of Chernihiv, a lovely, calm city which is currently being shelled by Russian forces, then you can watch the whole show, or parts of it here: https://tinyurl.com/bremnersingsvideo or below.
Kiev was one of the most beautiful cities that I have visited. The people I met viewed themselves as part of Western Europe. They were aware of the problems in their country and assumed the slow movement of democratic change would fix those issues. All of them were deeply engaged in making change and creating a more free and just society. No subject was too dangerous to discuss and share.
There was no censorship or repression.
I have no idea of what Putin thinks he can do with these people, even if he did win. I’m terrified to think of how he’d enforce the same censorship currently in place in Russia. It would essentially be the Eldorado Kabarett all over again.
My friends in Ukraine have sent me these links to various charities: please help if you can.
Humanitarian aid - Caritas Ukraine
Medical care – “Viterets” Medical Rapid Response Team https://www.facebook.com/Rescue.breeze
Charity help veterans and the military - Safe Life https://www.facebook.com/backandalive
In the ruins of a theatre, after the performers are beaten and arrested by the authorities, one defiant actor attempts to perform the entire show.
Singing into The Dark, 1933 takes place in an imagined version of Berlin’s Eldorado Club after the rise of Hitler. In 1933, immediately after taking power, the Nazis attacked cultural workers, hoping to destroy ideas they deemed inappropriate and silence voices that might resist them. The first concentration camps, ‘re-education camps’, were set up for cultural workers, and became brutal spaces of punishment and murders.
When Herman Goering ordered theatres to close, the Eldorado Club (a home for alternative performance, and a welcoming space for the LGBTQ+ community) was raided, and performers dragged to the camps. The club was taken over and used as the local Nazi headquarters.
Boldly bringing to life the disappeared company, the actor shows us how celebration and humor are acts of resistance, and how we can fight oppression with fury and laughter, rage and delight.
The show runs 75 minutes without intermission. Bremner sings 9 songs from the era, either with live piano or small ensemble, or a specially-recorded backtrack.
Think that this is just history? Imagine being in a modern country with a repressive government: Imagine you won a ticket to be in the audience at the taping of your favorite series. You love this show: it's crazy, rude, political, risky. It makes fun of authority and takes all the chances. Its John Oliver meets George Carlin meets RuPaul meets Dancing With The Stars. But when you arrive, something’s wrong. The doors are broken down, the studio in ruins, and the cast and crew missing. They finally crossed the line: insulted a powerful politician, spoke too much truth, and the Security Forces have taken them. Maybe they’re in prison, maybe even dead. But in front of you, staring at the empty stage, one camera remains upright, blinking green, live, broadcasting to the world. What do you choose to do?
Do you leave, run, and stay silent? Or go on camera, bear witness, speak the truth and risk your life?
Singing into The Dark, 1933 tells that story.
'33 (a kabarett) has been performed across North America and Europe to full houses and critical acclaim. In Europe, '33 was chosen open the Armmono Theatre Festival in Armenia, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. It has recently toured in the Balkans and to the Ukraine and will be touring in Russia, Germany and Eastern. It has received Five Star reviews at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and has been performed at festivals across North America .
watch the first song from the show, Noel Coward's 20th Century Blues,
filmed at the 800 seat Chernihiv Opera House in 2018
a kurt weill cabaret
A fast-paced fusion of reality, comedy, music... and a touch of tragedy. Whiskey Bars is a strikingly original, unpredictable singer's story of attempting a final comeback, fueled by too many vodka martinis and Kurt Weill's dark and daring songwriting.
Backstage, in old dressing room of a run down cabaret theatre, just before his big comeback performance, a performer battles an invisible critic, trying every trick he knows to win a good review. There are lies, seduction, charm, anger and outright begging - and in the process he reveals more then he expects about himself and his belief and love for the music of the amazing Kurt Weill.
“a fantastic show - a perfect festival experience – outstanding singing, in a distinctive setting - with the story of the insecure performer lending subtext and dynamism to a thrilling reworking of Weill material. It was seedy. It was stirring. It was utterly memorable.”
Andrew Clover, Sunday Times (uk)
"...theatre at its very best. Bremner’s classical training and background as a many-year veteran in musicals and jazz bands is evident from the outset. By the time we arrived at the chillingly Speak Low - calm on the surface, yet bubbling with undercurrents of febrile yearning - we were left with no doubt whatsoever that we were in the presence of a true master of his craft. This show is, like the best of Weill's own works for the stage, a seamless blend of gripping entertainment and genuinely moving art."
The Edinburgh Fringe Review
WEILL AT HEART
FROM BERLIN TO BROADWAY
A KURT WEILL CONCERT
"It takes more than just an expressive voice to really communicate Kurt Weill songs - it takes love, fear, regrets, wistfulness, loneliness, tragedy and charm. And above all, it takes a fine actor. Bremner has it all"
-Theatreworld Magazine, London, England
From Berlin to Broadway is an intimate musical cabaret-concert, infused with Bremner’s warmth and humour, which gives audiences a fondness for Kurt Weill’s music and an insight into this legendary figure. Weill was a revolutionary and an angry young man, an avant-garde of the 20th century, who broke new musical and theatrical ground and has left an enormous musical legacy.
His most famous works were his Berlin cabaret and theatre collaborations with Bertolt Brecht. As the Nazis took power in Germany and Weill fled to America, he quickly linked up with writers and lyricists like Ira Gershwin, Oscar Hammerstein, Maxwell Anderson, Elmer Rice, and the literary giant of the Harlem Renaissance, Langston Hughes.
As well as bringing to the fore Weill’s musical brilliance and his passionate views on subjects such as human injustice, Bremner’s concert beautifully shares the story of Weill’s complex relationship with the love of his life, actress Lotte Lenya.