Welcome To Cabaret! Glücklich zu sehen, Je suis enchanté, Happy to see you, Bleibe, reste, stay.
RIDICULOUS I KNOW, but I just couldn’t help it. As I looked around Laila Harré’s Ika restaurant on Tuesday night, I kept thinking: Weimar Germany, 1932.
Perhaps it was the cause. In collaboration with the Coalition for Better Broadcasting, The Daily Blog, and her own (and husband Barry Gribben’s) latest venture, Harré had called together a panel discussion on the future of Campbell Live. Looking around the restaurant I momentarily entertained the gruesome thought that one well-placed bomb would wipe out the cream of the Auckland Left (plus Bill Ralston and Fran O’Sullivan!)
Not that it’s come to bombs – not yet. Not like the poor doomed Weimar Republic. Even so, there’s the same worrying feeling that the forces of the Right are openly manoeuvring; striking ever more provocative poses; showing less and less regard for appearances. To wit, the impending demise of Campbell Live.
The thing about a good puppet show is that you either can’t see, or are artfully distracted from noticing, the strings. It’s only when the strings themselves become more interesting than the puppets they’re attached to that the audience should start to worry.
And that time has come.
Which is why, as I sat there in Ika (formerly the Neapolitan eatery Sarracino, formerly the chapel of Tongue’s the undertakers!) watching present and former MPs, trade unionists and entrepreneurs, left-wing and right-wing journalists shake hands and exchange gossip, my gloomy thoughts led me to the Kit-Kat Club and Bob Fosse’s classic movie, Cabaret.
Up on the stage, playing the role made famous by Joel Grey was our Emcee, Wallace Chapman. And the floor-show, Ika’s Cabaret Band, if you will, were (from neoliberal right to post-modern left) Fran O’Sullivan, Bill Ralston, Simon Wilson and Phoebe Fletcher.
Together, they discussed and dissected the decision to dangle
the sword of Damocles above the marvellous Mr Campbell’s current-affairs
half-hour. All good stuff, and the punters lapped it up. (Along with their
whole gurnards and snappers, expertly seasoned, and laid out on a bed of the
most fashionable vegetables.)
|"I am your host!" - Wallace Chapman plays Emcee at Ika's "Table-Talk" about the future of Campbell Live.|
But outside in the dark, where the unseasonable weather was turning Mt Eden Road into an icy wind-tunnel, a very different New Zealand was settling in for a very different bill of fare. The languid musings of TVNZ’s Mike Hoskings, perhaps? Or TV3’s X-Factor? Maybe The Bachelor, or NCIS, or How To Get Away With Murder, or any of a host of other shows beamed into their living rooms by Sky TV’s bounteous satellite. Their thoughts and feelings so far from the worries of these left-wing luvvies that they might as well be living on another planet.
Hence the ominous analogy with the tragic Weimar Republic. In the nite-clubs of Berlin’s demi-monde the clever and artistic lamented what was happening in the streets outside. The running battles between Left and Right. The strategic re-positioning of big business as the economy tanked and politics turned sour. And, most of all, the looming presence of a man who seemed almost umbilically joined to all the little people living in all the little rooms where democracy was fast becoming a dirty word.
“Willkommen, Bienvenue, Welcome. Im Cabaret, au Cabaret, to Cabaret!”
A version of this essay was first posted on The Daily Blog of Wednesday, 15 April 2015.