A tribute to a legend misses the triumph
By Adam Tonking
Die Knef, a cabaret written and performed by April Albert, traces the life of Hildegard Knef, a chanteuse whose survival of World War II coloured the rest of her career as a performer, but never held her back from her ambition.
Albert’s show is a brief insight into a relatively unknown figure in Australia, and showcases songs in a language that is too seldom celebrated outside of opera here.
Hildegard Knef, referred to by Albert as “the Edith Piaf of Germany”, was an actress and singer who enjoyed a long career spanning from the 1940s through to the 1970s. With Albert as Knef, Die Knef is at its most simple the story of one woman’s life, featuring the songs that made her famous.
But Albert presents it as a kind of nostalgia concert from a faded artiste you can imagine touring RSLs and pokies venues, and so Knef comes onstage with all of the pizzazz and charisma of a star, but gets distracted reminiscing about the many tragedies of her life.
Watching Knef unravel under the weight of her memories makes for fascinating viewing.
I had thought that a show containing entirely foreign language songs might present a challenge, but the audience quickly accepted the change and Albert seemed most comfortable when singing or speaking in German.
Although her commitment to the character is admirable, she rarely seemed to connect with the unimaginable horrors that Knef describes experiencing during World War II.
The script appears meticulously researched, peppered with pithy quotes for which Knef was well-known, but then focuses too heavily on these bad times, not on the successes that made her so famous and hence a character worth getting to know.
April Albert’s Die Knef was on at The Butterfly Club in South Melbourne from the 1st till the 4th of December at 7pm.
For details of other upcoming shows, visit www.thebutterflyclub.com.