Fabulett 1933 review – Edinburgh Festival Fringe ★★★★★

7 mins read

There are some common themes emerging from shows at the 2023 Edinburgh Festival Fringe. One of these is ‘forgotten moments from history’. 

Fabulett 1933 takes one such moment, and uses real events to weave a story combining a theme of queer community with a warning that every individual’s human rights are never 100% secure. 


In the early 1930s, the economic situation in Germany was terrible. Hyper-inflation had led to ruin and destitution for many. The image of people buying loaves of bread with wheelbarrows of Deutschmarks featured in newspapers around the world.

Still devastated from the economic and moral sanctions imposed by the Allied Powers after the conclusion of World War One, the period was marked by political instability.

Despite this, and perhaps somewhat surprisingly, German society was exceptionally liberal. As well as the significant gay community, there was a wider queer presence which included a lot of trans people.

Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld ran the Institute for Sexual Science, which focused on research around trans issues. As a result, trans people had significant rights around gender recognition and name changes. 

As permissive as German society was, the economic woes of the country became the most pressing concern of its citizens. Hitler rose to power through political machinations, and through finding sectors of the German population who could be blamed for the country’s problems. 


The show takes all of these threads of history, and combines them to tell a story set on 28th February 1933 – the night every Cabaret in Berlin was ordered to close, for good. 

Michael Trauffer plays Felix, the emcee of the Fabulett Cabaret. In the space of an hour, he takes us through his life story, using the framing device of ‘the last night of the cabaret’ to suggest a pressure of time. 

Felix’s life has not all been queer joy. He served in the German army in World War One. This is an interesting angle, and almost certainly draws on true history. 

Rejected by his family after the war because of his queerness, Felix ran away to Berlin, and has ended up running this queer safe space, a venue he loves. Although many of the queer community hide during the daytime, at night they can be free in the clubs.

The story Felix relates covers almost twenty years, and there is mention of numerous acquaintances, friends, and lovers. Felix has gathered around him a found family, but now, in 1933, some of them are leaving, seeking sanctuary in other countries. 

Into Felix’s world of casual affairs comes ‘H’. H is generous with money, buying the affection of the attendees at the Fabulett as he buys them drinks. 

H comes to the club every Sunday. H seduces Felix, and they begin an affair. H promises Felix the world. He says they will be together, that he will sort everything out. Life, and Germany, will get better. 

It’s thinly disguised, but Trauffer’s skill as a performer raises this sequence from what could have been an overplayed allusion, to a moment of surprising tenderness. It’s also a compelling way to demonstrate how the Nazis convinced people to believe in them, using flattery, bribery, and easy slogans. 

As the piece is set in a Cabaret, the use of songs feels utterly natural. Some are original numbers, also written by Trauffer. Others were written by Jewish composers Mischa Spoliansky and Friedrich Hollaender. All are performed magnificently. 

The production also utilises video footage from archive sources, to show the changes occurring within Germany at the time. 

It’s remarkable that the footage of the destruction wrought by the Nazis was allowed to exist, and that it has survived, and its use here adds historical context, some of which the audience will be familiar with. 

As the show moves towards its conclusion, it becomes apparent that there will be no happy ending. The Cabarets will not be saved. There will not be a last minute reprieve.

The Nazis will continue to eliminate everything of which they disapprove, and encourage others to join them in their violence. 

Final Thoughts

Comparisons with Joel Grey’s Emcee in Fosse’s film adaptation of Cabaret are inevitable. Even though there are obvious points of comparison between the characters, it soon becomes clear that comparison is unwarranted. 

Felix’s story is Felix’s – not that of the wider Cabaret workers and their relationships. Felix tells us of his own life, rather than remaining an aloof observer as Grey’s character did. 

Trauffer, and his accompanying pianist work together, with the clever and appropriate use of footage and voiceovers, to create a world that is all too clear in the imagination. They grab the audiences’ attention, and hold onto it for the entire performance.

This is an excellently crafted, lovingly created story. The story is all too relevant to today’s attempts by politicians to curb human rights, especially for trans people. We must learn from history, and not allow the same decimation of rights, and persecution of those just trying to live their lives to occur again. 

This is a vitally important piece of musical theatre, performed with exceptional skill, love and care for the story being told. Fabulett 1933 is strongly recommended. 

Fabulett 1933 continues at the Edinburgh Fringe until 27th August.

Featured Image Credit: Edinburgh Festival Fringe

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