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I Am a Camera


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A: John Van Druten Pf: 1951, New York Pb: 1952 G: Drama in 3 acts S: Fräulein Schneider's flat, Berlin, c.1930 C: 3m, 4fChristopher Isherwood is a young English writer who has come to Berlin and rented a room from Fräulein Schneider. He wishes to note as objectively as possible his impressions of the city and especially its political upheavals with street battles between Fascists and Communists: ‘I am a camera, with its shutter open, quite passive.’ He meets and falls in love with fellow lodger Sally Bowles, a flamboyant English singer at a local nightclub, even though she openly admits that she has just had an abortion. Each pretends not to be possessive about the other: Christopher agrees not to probe her past and stifles his jealousy when she becomes pregnant by another man. However, the growing Nazi threat moves him so deeply that he has to give up his pose of objectivity. He decides he must leave Berlin (‘The camera's taken all its pictures, and now it's going away to develop them’). He fails to persuade the apolitical and amoral Sally to come with him, but she promises to send him postcards.

A: John Van Druten Pf: 1951, New York Pb: 1952 G: Drama in 3 acts S: Fräulein Schneider's flat, Berlin, c.1930 C: 3m, 4f

London-born Van Druten left Britain for the USA in the 1930s after problems with the British censor. Based on Christopher Isherwood's Goodbye to Berlin (1939), I Am a Camera is one of the best-known works by this prolific and successful playwright, not least because of its transposition into the musical Cabaret (1966). The play offers an interesting insight into a writer's need for commitment at a time of political upheaval, an aspect that is hardly explored in Cabaret.

Subjects: Theatre — Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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