Muse, The Witham, Barnard Castle

MUSE offers a glimpse into the life of Jean Ross, the real-life inspiration behind the fictional Sally Bowles, the eponymous character of Christopher Isherwood’s novel which became the catalyst for the musical Cabaret.

Sophie Jugé plays the divinely decadent Ross with a melancholic authenticity. She’s poised and glamorous, her costume and make up, including Ross’ trademark green painted finger nails, date the era perfectly.

The first half, set in 1931 Berlin, finds the English girl who wittily claimed she was from ‘Lederkopf’ (Leatherhead) meandering in monologue format through Ross’ failed liaisons with various men. Jugé’s clipped tones feed the victim in Ross with a churlish resentment that she was never credited as being the inspiration for Isherwood or the lyricist, Eric Maschwitz.

Musically, Jugés talent far outweighs her acting ability, she shows off her range with a selection of jazz classics including a charming rendition of Rodgers and Hart’s Bewitched, Bothered & Bewildered, but surprisingly not the most recognisable title song from Cabaret itself.

The script doesn’t linger on the Cabaret story, following her unconventional life as a well respected political journalist, who filed reports from the siege of Madrid in the Spanish Civic War to her domestic capabilities as a single mother. Although the second half is more interesting, the story is short on emotion and lacks the character development necessary to employ the audience’s empathy.

This show has huge potential to step outside the one-woman genre and would be more cohesive with at least one more performer.

Helen Brown