Bernie comes up from underground

13 November 2020

International cabaret artist Bernie Dieter has been bunkered down in Melbourne but is emerging with an extra-debauched variety show which opens soon at Crown Perth. David Zampatti chats with Dieter as she sits out quarantine.

Loading spinner

David Zampatti would have loved to chat with Spiegeltent superstar Bernie Dieter face-to-face, but she had just returned to quarantine after taking the Day 11 COVID-19 test, so he morosely had to make do with a phoner. It turns out Dieter has made good use of her enforced layoff in Melbourne and is excited about her month-long season in a bespoke lair somewhere deep in the bowels of the Crown Perth resort.

David Zampatti: Berlin Underground is a new cabaret show for you, and is running for quite a long season. What new directions are you taking?

Bernie Dieter: I’m getting used to doing longer seasons these days, but the exciting thing is that they are letting us take over the venue – we are designing it from the ground up. It was an empty shell and we have full artistic license, so I’m creating my own ultimate cabaret club, the one I’ve always had in my dreams. We’re going to immerse you from the moment you enter – even before that. You’ll get a little text from me on the day telling you where to go to the stage door, you’ll meet one of our gorgeous drag queens, she’ll sneak you in through her dressing room, and that’s when you’ll discover our debauched den of iniquity. It’s really amazing to be able to curate the whole experience from when people buy their tickets right up to when the show starts.

Bernie Dieter says she has missed hearing the audience lean forward and go “ooohhh”. Photo: Rachel Mia

DZ: Could this be a model for future shows for you?

BD: Absolutely; we’ve always wanted to do this, and we’ve tried to stretch it as far as it will go in a festival environment, but this is allowing us to really go to town, so (wicked laugh)…

DZ: What’s the capacity of the room going to be?

BD: At the moment I think we’re looking at 350, but if WA goes to stage five we might be able to do 550 – it’s just going to be exciting to be in a room with so many gorgeous humans; for me, this year, 350 sounds like – whaaat! It’s great.

DZ: This year just stopped dead in its tracks for you. You found yourself far from home in Melbourne, Were you just taking a break or was it still festival season when all this started to close down and you were stranded?

BD: I was actually in Berlin, seeing a few shows and talking to people about developing a show for a few Spiegeltents, but I had some work to do in Melbourne so I flew there. Then everything shut down, the borders all closed – an entire year’s worth of work just evaporated. So I just decided to bunker down in Melbourne – you know it was the first time I’d been in one place for six months in a row for so long, it was crazy. So I got a little flat above a bar in Fitzroy. I thought – perfect! But the bar was only open for two weeks in the six months I was there.

DZ: How did you find lockdown – were you able to work?

BD: I was; I did a whole lot of songwriting. It was something that kept me going. But some days were harder than others, some days were just devastating – to see our entire industry, you know the way the arts has been treated by governments all over the world, it’s been really hard. It really highlighted how fragile it is, what we do.

It also really made me realise how important it is to be in a room with other humans, with live performance – hearing that laughter and having that connection. Somewhere were you can feel that beautiful human energy – it’s something that’s been getting lost in our society anyway. We’re getting more technical, and a little more isolated, and this year just highlighted that for me.

DZ: I know what you mean. There’s been a lot of talk about how we might be seeing the start of a new hybrid theatrical art form because of technology and the pandemic. But I hope not.

BD: There are some people, like YouTube comedians, who are really versed in that medium, but for others, especially in cabaret, it’s all about that dialogue, about having that interaction; you can feel, collectively, in a crowd when an acrobat does a death-defying drop, the whole audience leaning forward and going “ooohhh”. It just does something to your soul.

DZ: Tell us a little about your fellow performers in Berlin Underground, and the band you’ve assembled.

BD: We have Mark Elton on bass, who has come over from Melbourne with us, and we have three Perth musicians, including two girls, Gracie on the drums and Nicole on the keys – I’m really excited to have them because bands, you know, can sometimes be a bit of a sausage fest!

We have all-new acts, we have the absolutely amazing Jarred Dewey from Circa on aerials, the things he can do with his body really blows my mind (more wicked laughter), and he does it all in six-inch red heels! Then we’ve got the drag sensation that is Miss Scarlet Adams and the jaw-dropping Ruby Lai, who is our pole dance champion, and our whisky swilling Cirque du Soleil star Mr Reuben Dot Dot Dot who is so limber and doing some hand balancing and amazing acrobatics, and our hula hoop vixen Miss Lisa Lottie who you will have seen in La Soiree, who’s working up a special act for Berlin Underground that’s maybe a bit more debauched than you’ve seen before – it’s all very exciting!

Bernie Dieter’s Berlin ‘Underground’ runs 19 November – 13 December 2020 at Crown Perth.

Pictured top: Spiegeltent superstar Bernie Dieter. Photo: Rachel Mia

Loading spinner

Author —
David Zampatti

David Zampatti has been a student politician, a band manager, the Freo Dockers’ events guy, a bar owner in California, The West Australian’s theatre critic and lots of other crazy stuff. He goes to every show he’s reviewing with the confident expectation it will be the best thing he’s ever seen.

Past Articles

  • Dieter gets dirty underground

    Bernie Dieter’s songs remain pretty much the same, but David Zampatti says the cabaret queen’s new show is fertile and fabulously dirty.

    Loading spinner
  • Rock royalty gets a theatrical flourish

    If Abba can have a musical, why not Queen? David Zampatti says there was something authentic and satisfying about this stripped-down, prom-am production of We Will Rock You.

    Loading spinner

Read Next

  • Images Copyright Susie Blatchford of Pixel Poetry A small boy stands proudly in front of a colourful mural . In amongst the multicoloured patterned circles are the words: Friendship in Forrest Street. An older man stand to one side of the mural. Both the man and the child are smiling proudly. Take a walk on the art side

    Take a walk on the art side

    13 November 2020

    Take a walk down Forrest Street in Fremantle over the next couple of weeks and you’ll notice something special. The street has been turned into a walking art gallery by local artist and resident Alex Desebrock. Nina Levy chatted to Alex to find out about the Forrest Street Banner Project, and the creative practice behind the work.

    Loading spinner
    Reading time • 10 minutesVisual Art
  • Freo artist wins NAIDOC prize

    Freo artist wins NAIDOC prize

    12 November 2020

    National NAIDOC week kicked off Sunday 8 November so we’re re-sharing Michelle White’s interview with Tyrown Waigana, who designed this year’s NAIDOC Week poster.

    Loading spinner
    Reading time • 9 minutesVisual Art
  • A woman of Asian origin stands holding a string bass, spotlit with a dark backdrop COVID brings jazz festival closer to home

    COVID brings jazz festival closer to home

    2 November 2020

    Expect a bumper line up of home-grown talent at the Perth International Jazz Festival this weekend, including some local internationals! Rosalind Appleby talks with headline act Linda May Han Oh.

    Loading spinner
    Reading time • 7 minutesMusic

Cleaver Street Studio

Cleaver Street Studio

Cleaver Street Studio