Why classic cabaret still resonates

The 1930s remains a source of fascination for contemporary artists – why does the era keep drawing us back?

This year’s Adelaide Cabaret Festival alone has three 1930s-themed works in its program: 30 Something, The Shànghai MiMi Band andBernie Dietmar’s Weimar Punk. It’s a trend long seen across programs nationally, and one that Robyn Archer, a mainstay of Australia’s cabaret scene for decades, has witnessed firsthand.

Archer’s back catalogue includes a number of 1930s-based projects like Berlin Between the Wars and Dancing on the Volcano, while her upcoming Robyn Archer: An Australian Songbook also includes selections from the Weimar Republic. She said the best work of that time endures not for nostalgic reasons but because it remains startlingly rich in contemporary resonance, still able to inspire and provoke.  

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Daniel Herborn is a journalist and novelist based in Sydney. His writing has appeared or is forthcoming in The Saturday Paper, The Monthly, The Guardian, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, and others. He has also practised law at an Intellectual Property firm specialising in creative industries clients.