EX­PLORES A CITY THAT CON­TIN­UES TO SE­DUCE...

The Weekend Post - Cairns Eye - - Escape -

AS Gatsby fever takes the world by storm, it’s time to re­visit the real roar­ing Twen­ties in Ger­many’s risque cap­i­tal. A cho­rus line of 32 stun­ning girls, high- kick­ing with mil­i­tary pre­ci­sion on a vast Ber­lin stage, prove to me the city’s 1920s the­atri­cal tra­di­tions are alive and bloom­ing.

I’m watch­ing the multi- mil­lion dol­lar re­vue Show Me, which opened last year at the enor­mous Friedrich­stadt Palast in Ber­lin’s East End theatre dis­trict, dur­ing cel­e­bra­tions of the city’s 775th an­niver­sary.

It is an amaz­ing show, part Las Vegas and part Cirque du Soleil. Heav­ily infl uenced by Amer­ica’s Ziegfeld Fol­lies, it fol­lows the tra­di­tion of Ger­man di­rec­tors such as the great Max Rein­hardt.

He staged sim­i­lar pro­duc­tions in Ber­lin dur­ing the Golden Twen­ties, a pe­riod with which the city will al­ways be as­so­ci­ated.

Now Twen­ties fever ap­pears to be grip­ping the world, thanks to Aus­tralian di­rec­tor Baz Luhrmann’s deca­dent adap­ta­tion of The Great Gatsby. So it seemed fi tting that I should re­visit the real home of early 20th cen­tury razzmatazz, Ber­lin.

In the new lib­eral Weimar Repub­lic cre­ated af­ter World War I, with stuffy Kaiser Wil­helm ex­iled to Hol­land, Ber­lin shed its in­hi­bi­tions so wildly, that Swing­ing Lon­don 40 years later was a mere vicarage tea party by com­par­i­son.

Twen­ties Ber­lin was the cross­roads of Europe, prid­ing it­self on its moder­nity and em­brac­ing all things Amer­i­can. Cen­sor­ship had been abol­ished and ex­per­i­men­tal theatre, mu­sic and fi lm- mak­ing fl our­ished. The city’s many cul­tural of­fer­ings were the prin­ci­pal mar­ket­ing fea­ture for at­tract­ing vis­i­tors then, and this still ap­plies to­day.

Since my youth I have been riv­eted by Ber­lin’s World War II and post­war ex­pe­ri­ences, but above all, by its Weimar days, im­mor­talised in Christopher Ish­er­wood’s Ber­lin nov­els, Good­bye To Ber­lin and Mr Nor­ris Changes Trains, from which the 1972 mu­si­cal fi lm Cabaret was cre­ated.

I fi rst vis­ited the city in 1966, when it was di­vided by the no­to­ri­ous Com­mu­nist Wall, al­though tourist ac­cess to the Mitte ( cen­tral) area be­hind the Wall was still pos­si­ble.

That part of Ber­lin was a near- waste­land of va­cant sites where build­ings had once stood. The Friedrich­strasse, the pre- war Ox­ford Street of Ber­lin, was a ghost of its for­mer self.

But now, stand­ing at the Bran­den­burg Gate, look­ing down the Un­ter den Lin­den, I’m struck by how much re­build­ing has taken place since 1966 and how the city is re­cov­er­ing.

The leg­endary Ad­lon Ho­tel – be­fore the war, it was Ber­lin’s Ritz – is back in busi­ness as the Ad­lon- Kempin­ski. It was de­stroyed in 1945 and re­built on its old site only af­ter the Wall came down in 1989.

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