Robyn Archer

IAN COLLINS Norwich Playhouse (Norfolk and Norwich Festival)


Norwich Playhouse (Norfolk and Norwich Festival)

For those few of us who turned out on a rainy night to greet her, Robyn Archer was a legend - and a star who gained further lustre from her concert in Norfolk.

This veteran performer has a strong mezzo voice and a personality as big as her native Australia, and she invests her favourite material - culled from the archive of Bertolt Brecht and his peers and collaborators - with awesome passion.

Aided by splendid pianist Michael Morley, these songs worked as cabaret (or, with so many from Weimar Berlin, as Cabaret).

Spoken lyrics added poignant poetry.

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But a cycle moving from 1920s decadence through songs of economic and then moral collapse, to bitter refuge in America and false dawn in East Berlin, provided a surgeon's survey of the 20th century's icy heart.

As Robyn sang, grainy newsreel images of terror and horror flashed through my mind.

And as Tony Blair prepares for profitable retirement, leaving young British soldiers to die pointlessly in Iraq, the singer would doubtless agree that the messages of Brecht, Eisler and Kurt Weill resonate to this day.