Dietrich: Natural Duty

Dietrich: Natural Duty
Adelaide Fringe Festival 2020. Black Box Theatre – Adelaide Botanic Gardens March 3 – 15, 2020

Marlene Dietrich was one of the most glamorous leading ladies of the 1930s and 1940s. She will always be remembered for her smouldering sex appeal and distinctive voice. Her long career spanned from the 1910s to the 1980s and during this time she continually reinvented herself.

Controversially when she appeared in the 1968 Adelaide Festival of Arts she slapped a television interviewer three times across the face. She sadly left us in 1992, but thanks to Peter Groom she has been reincarnated and grants us an audience and insight into her private and public life in Dietrich: Natural Duty.

The show is createdand performed by Groom, co-writtenand directed by Oliver Gully, with costumedesign by Kathleen Nellis, lighting design by Fraser Craig, sound design by Kieran Lucas, hair by WigChapel and produced by Jimmy Jewell. It is a stunning tribute to a legend and a bravura performance!

Groom is Marlene! Everything is there, the famous jewelled dress from her 1968 Adelaide Festival appearance, the hairstyle, the hooded eyes, the husky Germanic voice with the slight speech impediment, the pout, the long legs, the provocative looks but most of all the woman that enchanted us in The Blue Angel, Blonde Venus and Morocco among many others.

Marlene (Groom) takes us on a journey from her first audition to the end of World War II. With only a microphone, a table with white roses and a chair, she reveals Marlene’s no-nonsense approach to acting, the reality of war and the afterlife.

All the songs are there – "Lili Marlene", "Where Have all the Flowers Gone?" (in German and with tears flowing down her face), “See What the Boys in the Backroom Will Have" and of course "Falling in Love Again". Groom channels Marlene’s cabaret style perfectly.

It is an evening that will live in this reviewer’s mind for a long time. Very soon into the performance the illusion of a man playing Marlene is forgotten. It is Marlene and those glorious eyes seem to stare into our soul as she allows us to share her life and shamelessly flirts with us.

There are not enough superlatives to describe this experience. It was a privilege to be in Marlene’s (Groom’s) presence and enthralling from start to finish.

Marlene: Natural Dutyis a triumph and not only highly recommended, it is a lesson in performance and a must see.

Barry Hill

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