Without pretending that everything is perfect, the Fringe provides unique opportunities for theatrical, creative insights into queer identity and history. This is exactly what Fabulett 1933 sets out to provide. This is a sensationally performed show that reaches searing heights in its profession of love for visibility, and its scathing rejection of fascist oppression.
Set at the end of the Weimar Republic in Germany, Fabulett 1933 focuses on a cabaret venue of the same name that has to close its doors for the last time on the orders of the Nazis. The story runs in real time, counting down the last hour while its emcee Felix (Michael Trauffer) recalls his journey since serving as a soldier in The First World War. As well as an exploration of identity and visibility, the roles of family, addiction and wartime trauma also sink in. With so much going on the story at times feels a little disjointed, with some aspects not being explored with the detail they merit, but Fabulett 1933 remains arresting in its presentation.
It is difficult for one man shows (excluding a sarcastic pianist, whose non-musical contributions are amusing if a bit distracting) to completely envelop you in their world. Trauffer does so by clearly marking it as a world of consequence. There are fascinating nods to history, including the world’s first transgender affirming clinic, and discussions of how liberal the republic was for its time. That the play then ends with a plea for Felix’s friends to hide themselves has a real sting. Felix’s story is one of having to mask and unmask himself in the public sphere, and the ongoing importance of such stories barely needs discussing.
Trauffer is magnificent, with his soaring vocals and charm winning the day. But he also makes himself incredibly vulnerable to the audience’s judgement, pity, and adoration. His musical numbers are tempered by sobering monologues that curtail his expression. He teases out, mournfully, what could have been, with one sequence boldly exploring how the Nazis bought people’s affection with false charm and bribery. Behind all the colours and lights of Fabulett, there is pitch blackness, and it is a balance struck brilliantly.
A tragic celebration of a bygone era and a warning against bigotry, Fabulett feels like essential theatre for the times we live in. An almost perfect piece of theatrical storytelling, Trauffer’s creation is stained, beautiful, and just begging to be seen.
Fabulett 1933 runs until Sun 27 Aug 2023 at Underbelly Bristo Square – Clover at 22:00