WAYJO20-JazzUnderTheStars-970x90px.jpg
Reviews/Cabaret

Dieter gets dirty underground

20 November 2020

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

“Bernie Dieter’s Berlin Underground”, Zaccaria/Dead Man Label ·
Crown Perth, 19 November 2020 ·
Review by David Zampatti ·

Bernie Dieter’s Fringe World appearances have been an annual pilgrimage for me since 2013. Back them she was Bernadette Byrne, half of EastEnd Cabaret, and she and her then partner-in-crime Victor Victoria (Victoria Falconer-Pritchard) quickly became the fringe’s mainstay Spiegeltentmeisters, a mantle Byrne, now plying her trade solo as Bernie Dieter, has carried solo since EastEnd went west a few years back.

Now she’s back in town, but not in a Fringe tent. She’s brought her new show, “Berlin Underground”, to a shuttered nightclub at the Crown Resort Casino in the lead up to the holidays (the season has already been extended until December 20) and her acolytes have gathered to the Fräulein in happy droves.

Which is hardly surprising. Dieter is a wonderful performer, wide-eyed and leggy, and a superbly intelligent one. She gives patriarchal shibboleths from the femme fatale to the sex slave, the chanteuse to the rock chick, a hilariously merciless beating.

She doesn’t carry around a riding crop, but you’d swear she does.

Dieter’s Berlin Underground includes a hot rocking band and a lineup of cirque acts. Photo Johannes Reinhart

Anyone who saw her most recent show, “Little Death Club”, at this year’s Fringe World is not in for many surprises at “Berlin Underground” – but, in this case, familiarity will breed much contentment.

The formula that worked so well then – a hot rocking band and a lineup of cirque acts, all supporting Dieter’s slithery monologues and forays into the audience to terrify and excite her male victims – is reproduced here.   

For all her savvy and wiles, though, Dieter’s great strength is her singing and songwriting, and her recent iterations have focused more and more on them. For Berlin Underground she’s scattered a few covers (most notably Bowie’s portentous Five Years and a stripped-bare, emotional take on MGMT’s Time to Pretend) amongst her filthy, gin-soaked paeans to bad behavior, Let’s Do It Here, Dick Pics and A is for Alcohol among them.

Eavesdrop on Bernie Dieter’s chat with David Zampatti while she was in quarantine, in this hilarious Q&A.

She’s generous enough to slide back into the four-piece band (led with exuberant precision by bassist Mark Elton) to lend backing vocals to her guests, including the very impressive balancer Reuben Dot Dot Dot (who had two husky chaps from the audience doing stuff even Dieter might not dare ask of them) and the terrific pole dancer Ruby Lai, whose body becomes an abstract object on her apparatus.

The hula-hoop artist Lisa Lottie seemed out of place, though, dampening the clandestine bonhomie that is a Dieter trademark with a performance that substituted surliness for wit. Hula hooping makes you go all snarly? Really?

But, irritating though it was, it’s a minor and passing distraction in a show choc full of treats.

I’ve said before that Dieter is entitled to stand among the queens of nuevo-cabaret like Meow Meow, Amanda Palmer and Camille O’Sullivan. “Berlin Underground” may not break new ground for her, but if the soil is well-ploughed, it’s rich, fertile, and fabulously dirty. You should dig it some time. 

Bernie Dieter’s Berlin Underground continues at Crown Perth until 20 December 2020.

Pictured top: Bernie Dieter’s great strength is her singing and song writing. Here she fronts the band below pole dancer Ruby Lai. Photo Johannes Reinhart

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

  • Bernie comes up from underground

    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
  • 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

  • The dancers of West Australian Ballet in The Nutcracker (2020). Photo by Bradbury Photography copy The stage is filled with dancers clad in pink tutus, standing in a pose. They all face towards the Sugar Plum Fairy and Sugar Prince who are centre stage, dressed in sparkling gold costumes. Behind them is Drosselmeyer and Clara. Still sparkling in season three
    Reviews

    Still sparkling in season three

    22 November 2020

    West Australian Ballet’s Nutcracker is on its third outing but it managed to win over an unwilling attendee, admits Nina Levy.

    Loading spinner
    Reading time • 6 minutesDance
  • Juan Carlos Osma and Mayume Noguromi in Le Corsaire pas de deux for GALA. Photo by Bradbury Photography Gala promises to be a people pleaser
    Reviews

    Gala promises to be a people pleaser

    20 November 2020

    With a snappy program that is paced to suit our social media shaped attention spans, West Australian Ballet’s ‘Gala’ is designed for popular appeal, writes Nina Levy.

    Loading spinner
    Reading time • 7 minutesDance
  • Photo: Christophe Canato Half the length, double the impact
    Reviews

    Half the length, double the impact

    20 November 2020

    Changes to programming give audiences more opportunity to appreciate the impressive physicality of WAAPA’s dance students, says Lauren Catellani.

    Loading spinner
    Reading time • 5 minutesDance

Cleaver Street Studio

Cleaver Street Studio

Cleaver Street Studio