Bernie Dieter. Multi award winning Queen of Weimer punk Kabaret. Star of ‘The Little Death Club’ forming part of the Underbelly Festival on at the Southbank. Having been described as a cross between Lady Gaga, Marlene Dietrich and Noel Fielding in sequins, she has played sold out shows all over the world. We at Those London Chicks are so incredibly pleased Bernie has taken the time out to talk to us.
Had you always wanted to sing/ perform when you were growing up. Or were there other ambitions?
I’ve always been an attention seeker from a young age and was always singing at the top of my lungs whenever I got the chance. It was the only path for me really.
Describe your journey to getting to this point in career?
It has been full of adventures, amazing people and a whole lot of gin. Collaborating with all kinds of glorious punks, freaks and weirdos in the worlds of circus, music and Kabarett, there has never been a dull moment. From gigs in tiny dive bars and pubs to being the first ever female MC of the infamous variety show ‘La Clique’ and performing in Spiegeltents across Australia and Europe, has been a pretty epic journey.
Where there any challenges along the way. If so how did you overcome them?
There are always challenges, especially as a powerful woman singing brazenly about sex and using comedy to make political statements. But you just keep telling your story and accept that you can never please or change everyone, just keep being true to yourself and be proud of the changes you can make.
Your Grandmother’s family owned a circus in Germany just before the war, tell us about it?
Yes darling, my Oma’s family owned a travelling circus in Germany just before the war. They had acrobats and clowns and circus animals as well, my Oma was very young and was allowed to spruik for the shows on the megaphone out the front and help sell tickets, but she always admired the acrobats and dreamt of being on the stage. When the political climate in Germany changed and the Berlin Wall was built, my family didn’t feel safe in east Germany as they were seen as being ‘different’, so they fled in a circus caravan to the west and they made it through by hiding under piles of sequinned costumes. So I guess the circus was always in my blood.
As Ring Mistress, you’ve challenged the stereotypes of a female circus performer. Difficult?
Yes, at times difficult. But as I said before, if you focus on what you want to do rather than what others think you should be doing, you will have an original voice and can break the mould.
How do you feel circus has changed over the years?
Yes, I think it has changed a lot. I like to think that we have gone from days, like the days of Barnum’s Freak Shows. Where audiences would just stare and point and laugh at the spectacle of it all. Now, and especially in the Little Death Club, we try to highlight that we are ALL a bunch of freaks (audience included) and that is what makes us beautiful and unique. We celebrate difference instead of fearing it.
Tell us about your show Little Death Show?
It is the funniest, darkest, most debauched Kabarett club this side of Berlin. I sing with a four piece Weimar punk jazz band who play all of my original music. As well as some incredible acts: the whisky soaked, fire breathing bad ass that is Kitty Bang Bang, the gender bending marvel Beau Sargent, the Siren of South Yorkshire Myra Dubois, a pissed off French mime and the tattooed hair hanging dynamo Fancy Chance. It is the most fun you will have in a Spiegeltent all summer darlings.
As an actress I appreciate the whole ‘live’ aspect of performance. You’ve travelled the world with the show. Have you had any “interesting” ‘live how do I get out of this moments’ that you care to share?
Oh I have had many darlings, but what happens in the tent, stays in the tent!
What other show at the Underbelly festival are excited to see?
Yummy! They are a Melbourne based alternative drag cabaret collective, playing in June and it is one of the best shows I have seen for a long time. They are also all gorgeous and ridiculously talented humans.
When you’re here in London, where are your favourite haunts and why?
I love anywhere that serves gin darling. I particularly like the old East End boozer the George Tavern (owned by Brit pop artist Pauline Forster). I have had so many lock ins in that place! Also, on a sunny day the Underbelly beer garden on the Southbank is pretty hard to beat.
Who or what are your inspirations and why?
My Oma is my biggest inspiration. She is my spirit animal.
When you’re not being fabulous on stage. What do you like to do for ‘you’ time?
Mostly involves gin and eating cheese, having long discussions into the night around a table with friends is one of my favourite things to do. It’s where great ideas come from and you can laugh until your face hurts. I also do love music and theatre so I try to get to as many shows as I can.
We can’t have this chat without mentioning your incredible style. You look fantastic! How has your look evolved?
Danke darling! Well, you can never go wrong with black can you? Over the years I have started to work with amazing designers such as Alice Edgeley, who is a Melbourne based fashion designer who made my incredible catsuit, and Metamorph Quirky Couture who are the amazing Nordic company who make my feathered shoulders.
We at Those London Chicks are all about positive thought leads to fruition. What would be your ultimate dream, career or otherwise?
I would love to keep bringing the Little Death Club to audiences all over the world. There is so much scary shit going on in the world that we all need a bit of raucous, life affirming Kabarett in our lives right now.
Describe yourself in three words?
Funny, filthy, fabulous.
Take a look at the trailer for Little Death Club
Little Death Club at The Underbelly Festival runs until 23rd June. Book your tickets HERE