Interview with Baroness Maria von Hackemann

Crowned 'Queen of Weimar Musical Cabaret', vintage-style cabaret chanteuse 'Baroness Maria von Hackemann' brings new life and humour to the traditional European cabaret chanson.

She is a specialist in Weimar German Kabaret 'Lieder' songs and revives many melodic tunes of the early 20th Century (also songs from Parisian cabaret, Music Hall and the American Jazz Age as well as those connected with more modern cabaret).

Baroness Maria von Hackemann talks to Female Arts about cabaret, Weimar and being a working mum.

What is the favourite part of your job?

I love connecting with my audiences in the moment of performance. This job allows me to grow, develop and stretch my stage persona at every new performance. I also enjoy knowing that my work is so unusual - not your average job.

And least favourite?

It can be difficult to get shows into venues, particularly public funded venues as it seems they don't often want to take even the smallest of risks on new work. Some venues I've been to have terrible dressing room conditions and that's if you're lucky enough to have your own space to change.

How do you achieve a work/life balance?

This has been an increasing challenge for me since becoming a mother at the end of 2011. As those who are parents will testify, finding the time to find and grow creative work while caring for a child definitely makes it a difficult balancing act. Becoming a parent has made me think more about consolidating my efforts to get work, be more effective with the limited time I have, and think about how to make my work more sustainable. I now have a full length show which I book into various venues rather than gigging in mix shows. Working in the evenings providing I can find a babysitter seems to work at the moment with a little one.

Who do you find inspirational?

My original inspiration for my work came from my love of arts and culture of the 1920s and 30s. My grandfather would play me a Marlene Dietrich tune or a piece of big band music and over the years I developed a very eclectic collection of music from all eras particular those pre-1950s. Other people who inspire me include Lotte Lenya, Edith Piaf, Josephine Baker, Billie Holiday, and The Comedian Harmonists. Not only for their performance and music but also for their stories, triumphs, and the courage in tough times . The inspiration list is rather large so I share only a few of them here. Coming back to modern day I am particularly inspired by confident, feisty feminists who don't see 'feminism' as a dirty word.

What is a highlight of your career to date?

Performing in spaces including the National Theatre concert pitch, Bush Hall and the Soho Theatre as well as having the opportunity to perform abroad in places like Holland, Germany and Canada. I would love to do more of it. One place I would love to perform is in one of those marvellous Spiegeltents. I'd love to do my full length show there.

Why 1920’s - 30’s Weimar – what draws you to this era?

I am particularly interested in this era as my grandmother grew up in Berlin during that time. Although she was a young girl (born in 1924) I find the period really interesting to study.

What’s been your worst gig?

During the interval at an intimate gig in a small club in London, a large group of drunk and noisy customers entered the venue. They were not interested in watching a show, they just wanted more booze. The people running the club decided to let them enter and sat them in front of everyone else watching the show. This then created a massive wall of noisy, disinterested drunk people and cut us off from the rest of the audience. We eventually cut our set short as no-one could hear our show, and left the space, feeling terrible for the other people who had come to see our show but horrified by the desperation of the premises to let these people in during the show to make a few extra quid.

What advice would you give to others wanting to get into cabaret?

If its something you want to try, just do it. Its a great way to develop your own work and offers a space to experiment without the limitations of traditional theatre formats.

What are your plans for 2013?

I am planning to source more paid work performing my full length show particularly around Oxford, Reading, the Thames Valley and West London. I am also booked again this year to perform at Twinwood Vintage festival and would love to perform at more vintage themed events and possibly Edinburgh this year. There is also another theatre performance project I have in mind to develop and try to get funding for, but these are all plans which need to work in unison with my role as a mum.

(c) Female Arts 2013 Baroness Maria von Hackemann's website Facebook page
@MariaBaroness Twitter

Author's review: