German-Dutch cabaret entertainer Sven Ratzke presents a dazzling new rock show inspired by the music of the legend that was David Bowie. Coming to His Majesty’s Theatre as part of City of Perth’s Winter Arts Festival for one show only on June 15th, international singer and performer Ratzke‘s weirdly mad and entertaining universe will merge with the legendary Bowie universe into a grandiose music show. Ratzke will be accompanied by his brilliant three-man band led by longtime collaborator Charly Zastrau. The music grooves from 70s glam rock into sound collages and intimate moments. Ratzke took a moment out from his busy schedule and preparations for his Australian tour to answer a few questions from a fellow Bowie lover.
When did you discover Bowie and what drew you to him? Do you have an affinity to a particular Bowie persona or musical style?
Bowie was always present in my life, but more in the background. But more and more I discovered him and the things we have in common. That happened trough the shows I made and the theatre I did, from golden twenties Berlin material, via the musical Cabaret, to the Velvet Underground, to Jacques Brel, to the lead I played in Hedwig and the Angry Inch, and a lot of movies and books. He was inspired by all that. He is so good at putting puzzle pieces together and creating something totally new. Every time again he created something new and took risks. That inspired me enormously, especially his period in the seventies is like an opera, always playing a different character, and even killing one of them live on stage (Ziggy) So Ziggy is maybe my favorite. But again, also I took all these puzzle pieces as my own and created a new thing.
What gave you the idea or inspiration to create this show? In other interviews, you mention the song “Ashes to Ashes” as significant, but how did this show go from page to stage, so to speak, and how did you craft this unique story from Bowie’s songs?
This masquerade is a big inspiration, this creation of almost the first modern pop star. And also the person behind that. I was always interested what fame can do to you. How much it changes a persona. “Ashes to Ashes” shows what a brilliant and complex songwriter Bowie was. It refers to characters he created but also to the ghosts of his real life that haunt him, his brother and also maybe his drug use and his fear of going mad.
Bowie is often characterised as a chameleon (especially in the 70s) with both his persona and look as well as his musical styles – do you show those changes on stage as you go from place to place in the story?
Well, in my own way, through the songs. But I would say, it’s a theatrical show where you see a performer, who’s Ratzke and who tells a story, who’s almost like a Baron Munchausen from outer space that takes you on this trip. We travel around the world, from London via NYC and LA and end up in a drag club in West Berlin, so its connected to my own story, but there are all these references to Bowie. A fan will recognize a lot of details. And the songs of Bowie show maybe all these personas, they are like little movies.
I went through a period of mourning when Bowie died earlier this year, and was really surprised by how deeply it affected me. How did you take the news?
Yes, I think a lot of people felt like that. I think that has to do with the fact that he changed so much, was a real artist and had also such a long career. Every generation knows a Bowie song. For me it was unbelievable. The phone rang at 7 in the morning and never stopped that day. Friends, press, everyone wanted to talk to me. It was so weird. In the evening we had to perform songs on a talk show on Dutch TV to honor him. I had not even the time really to realize that he was gone. The next day it hit me: it was as if I’d lost a dear friend.
How has your show been received by Bowie fans? Were you ever worried or anxious about their reaction?
When I came up with the idea for this show, of course this all crossed my mind: he’s so loved, did so many great things, a legend, almost a saint. You shouldn’t touch it. But I only do and make things if I’m convinced that I can make it my own. I have a lot of love for his work. The fans can see that. They feel that. They love the show. Mostly they are really touched by it. That makes me really proud.
This will be your first time performing this show in Australia, and you have recently performed at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival with another show Diva’s Diva; how have you been received down under? Have you been able to gain a following here?
I loved it! I immediately wanted back. I think Australia has a very open-minded audience. They like to be entertained, but it should be original. I loved that. They don’t think in boundaries concerning arts. They are very open-minded for things out of the box, mixed expressions, I have the feeling. So I think I wanna extend this new love relation!
You’re in Perth for one night only, so you won’t be able to see much of our little city while you’re here, but what are you most looking forward to while in Oz? What keeps you going as a touring cabaret performer?
Unfortunately I’m only one day in Perth. But the theatre looks amazing! And I’m staying for one week in Adelaide and Melbourne. So I can see a bit more of those cities. I’m also coming back in February to Australia, maybe also to Perth who knows. And then I will have some more time. The audience keeps me going, the art, my colleagues, the inspiration. I’m a workaholic of cabaret haha…
For more information and to book tickets for this one-night only show on June 15th, head over to the Perth Theatre Trust website here.