Following last year’s success,The Stasi Are Among Us, The University of Edinburgh once again joined forces with the Glasgow Film Festival to create a special event. This time, to add some fun and old-fashioned glamour to the dark winter months, we took as our inspiration the cabaret movement of Weimar Republic Germany. A tumultuous period often seen as a ‘wild crucible for modern ideas and experiments’ this provides the perfect stimulus for a weekend of entertainment and experiment.
Weimarvellous - Cosima Amelang
One of the most rewarding aspects of “Weimarvellous” was contributing to a project that celebrated classic favorites and took them a step further with less conventional add-ons, enlivening standards by taking risks. On Friday, for example, The Blue Angel inspired live performances, including improvised contributions from the audience, while Saturday’s live accompaniment to Berlin: Symphony of a Great City was challenged by an experimental Glasgow version. This continual dialogue between different methodologies, with its strong emphasis on improvisation, made for a highly-charged weekend, one not without its nerve-racking moments but never failing to keep me engaged, both as a volunteer and audience member.
As the weekend of events kicked off with The Blue Angel, the atmosphere in the CCA was lively and our team was in high-spirits. The central café-bar space opened up to the growing stream of eager attendees, pleasantly surprised to be welcomed with champagne and cupcakes, while CCA regulars contemplated the vibrant goings-on with curious interest. In a blue wig I otherwise wouldn’t be caught dead in, I was encouraged by my experience of a contagious building of excitement between the public and volunteers. Our fancy dress embellishments struck a chord with audience members, and their budding enthusiasm gave our efforts more stamina and momentum.
Once the last of the latecomers edged into the theatre, we transformed the space for the Cabaret performances to follow and were left with some time to nurse a drink (and engage in guerilla table warfare). I appreciated this chance to reflect a bit on the progression of the event underway with some of my fellow volunteers. While The Blue Angel screening evidenced a recipe for success—how could a classic with Marlene Dietrich and a glass of champagne go wrong?—the audience reception of the upcoming performances was more uncertain. Perhaps I am more accustomed to the on-the-go Washingtonian way of life and fading attention span—people in my hometown seem to charge ahead rather than linger—but I was concerned the crowd would disperse after the film and began to brace myself for the task of corralling freed moviegoers. I was soon proven wrong, as the stream of eager attendees exiting the theatre crowded the bar and filled all available seating without hesitation. I was especially pleased to notice that we managed to sustain a variety of age groups for these Cabaret performances (I imagine there might have been a few elderly individuals traumatized by the dollar bill pasties to come).
More than anything else, I was most nervous about the final act of the night, ‘Cabaroke.’ I had trouble envisioning many people volunteering to sing cabaret numbers in public at 10:30pm without the help of multiple tequila shots. I have to admit, when the emcee opened up the stage to the audience, I expected the invitation to be met with the sound of crickets chirping and, suddenly feeling very vulnerable standing to the side in my blue wig, contemplated running into the back room to stuff my face with the remaining cupcakes. But once again, my nervousness was upstaged by the exuberant personality of our Glaswegian audience. People were keen to participate, leaving no lulls between acts, and some even collaborated with strangers on duets (and here I must credit my fellow classmate Susanne for her rallying efforts). The Cabaroke component showed me the importance of reaching the right audience; less conventional, improvised events can be invigorating successes if hard work goes into audience research and outreach. The value of risk-taking also proved true during Saturday’s programme of events. After the sold-out silent classic with live accompaniment, the “Glasgow: Symphony of a Great City” experiment was followed with an honest discussion, with attendees asking critical questions revealing a willingness to engage with the event beyond passive spectatorship. I left Glasgow with a feeling of great appreciation for the audiences that matched the enthusiasm at the heart of the event organization. I find it apt that my first time at the Glasgow Film Festival gave me a first-hand experience of the local spirit that is so intrinsic to its identity and has strongly contributed to its rise.
Film In The Public Space students (most easily recognisable as ‘Blue Angels’) photographed their collaboration with the Glasgow Film Festival which is split into two youtube videos below. The pics eally captures the essence of a Glasgow audience out to enjoy themselves.
Also, below is a personal reflection from FiPS student Emma Fyvie on her experiences developing and planning for the events.
Weimarvellous Review – Emma Fyvie
Think Weimar cabaret and you think of ad-hoc gatherings in seedy underground clubs dealing in alcohol and showing more than a little skin. The process of organising a similar event in 2012 Glasgow involves a bit more planning.
After a number of meetings to decide on the exact theme of our weekend programme of events with the Glasgow Film Festival, the jets were cooled and a false sense of security set in over December. While the upcoming event interrupted my train of thought frequently over the course of the Christmas holidays, 2012 still seemed a long way off and I was reassured by the fact that no tasks had been set over the festive season – I took the stance that no news was very much good news. Come January the pace quickened and a seemingly endless list of duties to fulfil and details to confirm emerged. But a few weeks of stress, with time off for classes, paved the way for what turned out to be a very successful series of events to which our first four star review is testament.
Having said that, I never thought the purchase of pearl beads would be the task to bring me to tears. Seven packs of four hundred cream pearls seemed more than sufficient, over cautious if anything, to provide a glitzy foundation to the tea-lights in Kilner jars that would serve as table decorations for our night of cabaret. The day the package arrived induced palpitations as, with only three days until the event, I was confused as to how exactly 2800 faux pearls could fit into an A5 padded envelope. Needless to say, Ebay product pictures are lacking in scale. A desperate online purchase of more beads and a cursing at my enthusiasm to take responsibility for the table decorations followed. ‘Pearl-gate’ reduced this agnostic to prayer, in an attempt to ensure my delivery of craft supplies would arrive on time. I am now the proud owner of sixteen glass Kilner jars and over 5000 pearl beads, and am reconsidering my position on the existence of God.
Our first night came and as I clinked my way into the Centre for Contemporary Arts on Sauchiehall Street, jars in hand, a feeling of relief washed over me. Everyone was here and looking amazing in their blue wigs – my one regret is that Primark had sold out when I went to buy my own and I had to settle for a bowler hat instead – and the space exceeded my expectations. A quick application of mascara and fire engine red lipstick and we moved out into the coloured bulb strewn bar to start serving our complementary glasses of Cava to our sold out screening audience. It was only a matter of time of course before I, on Cava pouring duty, would open a bottle destined to foam and spill down the front of my be-pussy-bowed blouse. Still, our black dress code ensured we were free to spill as much Cava over ourselves as we liked – a challenge Susanne took very seriously.
After our screening of The Blue Angel the cabaret began – a little raunchier than our audience were perhaps expecting – and was followed by a jaw-droppingly popular bout of ‘Cabaroke’. The endless stream of willing participants was largely due to Susanne’s unwillingness to take no for an answer and ensured a dearth of awkward time filling by our MC – the nail in the coffin of any live event. It was the ideal scenario I’d been sceptical would ever happen, but thankfully the Glasgow audience was far more responsive than I’d given them credit for.
Our Saturday started a little earlier, as half of our group arrived in time for a morning rehearsal. Having had no time for breakfast before heading to Waverley, we scoured Sauchiehall Street for a place we were certain would do a full English breakfast as we walked briskly from the station to the CCA. After a productive rehearsal with Synchresis, our incredibly talented sound-design collaborators from the ECA, our small group rushed to our earlier scouted café to find that they did indeed serve a full English, but that we were also the youngest people in there (staff and customers included) by at least forty years. Still, we were hungry and didn’t have time to scour the streets for another potential brunch venue before our next rehearsal time. With hindsight, we had time. The service was mesmerisingly slow and our orders emerged in dribs and drabs to clutter what was the smallest and most rickety of tables. And what does every tiny table need? The most enormous cafetiere with which to serve only the three people who opted for coffee. Our long wait for food was punctuated by incessant time checking and uncontrollable fits of laughter at our Fawlty Towers-esque predicament. When the food arrived the chit chat portion of brunch was over and we ate quickly to make it back to the CCA in time.
The rest of the day was far more relaxed as our screenings filled up and were well-received. Our jazz accompanied showing of Berlin: Symphony of a Great City was even better than the rehearsal, with the exception of a brief period where our DVD copy of the film stuttered a little, causing our row of FiPS students to clench with anticipation, only for the film to sort itself out within seconds. And our Synchresis experiment proved engaging enough to encourage an impressive number of contributions from the audience in its Q&A. With our first ever programme of live events almost at an end, the only thing left to do was regroup with some tapas and wine in the CCA bar. This was an equally successful endeavour by our team of first-time programmers.