Each of the seven women gets exposed slightly differently – some are introduced before leading a song, others have more developed dramatic scenes. We only see small glances of them, just enough to get an impression of their lives and impact. Some were more developed than others – the most attention and time going to Claire Waldoff, a gay cross-dressing cabaret artist. Her prominence is made more poignant by their programme, which declares solidarity with, and dedicates the show to, LGBT Russians.

The live band adds to the authenticity and immediacy of the piece and makes you forget, even if only for a moment, that you're not in an underground cabaret club in Berlin. This, and the fact that the audience are directly addressed, accosted and very nearly sexually assaulted by the performers makes everything more real.

Alyssa Noble's choreography is nothing short of inspired. Layered moving formations appear out of nowhere and then vanish into the whirling chaos of flying limbs and swinging hips. Then there are beautiful, fragile moments of ballet, where the sexual imagery is neither too subtle nor too strong. The ensemble has such a mastery of their own bodies and the dances themselves that they're barely breathing heavily by the end of a number in which they've sung and hoofed their little hearts out.

The precision and intensity of their dancing could be developed in some of the more talky scenes. Having said that, Abigail Parmenter's performance (as a drink and drug addled actor) is compelling enough and plenty disturbing; with some fine-tuning, she could be a real showstopper. While occasionally over-emotional, she rippled with an energy that seemed likely to explode at any given moment.

Overall, the second act is better than the first – gaining from the greater variety of scenes and the looming Nazi menace that starts to actively disrupt the women's lives. This added dimension of danger enhances and deepens our understanding of the characters, meaning that those we meet in the second act are more memorable and distinctive than those in the first.

All the way through, you're wondering what Sarah Bradnum's going to do, because even amongst such a tight cast she manages to stand out. She dances as if her life depended on her executing every move perfectly. When finally in her role she doesn't disappoint: she plays Marlene Dietrich, a famous German actress who moved to Hollywood – poised, unsatisfied and with an acidic streak, we first meet her in a hilarious musical tug-of-war with her pianist.

Memorable songs make a musical, and many of the numbers included in Halbwelt Kultur are equal to, if not greater than current West End phenomena. Starting with the brave chorus of "chuck all of the men out of the Reichstag", the music and lyrics never fail to put a smile on your face or a tune in your heart. When, as an encore, the cast reprised Claire Waldoff's queer anthem, they sang with such heartfelt sincerity that there were few tears from the audience.

These two gala performances showed at the Battersea Mess and Music Hall, which proved to suit the piece wonderfully. With its high ceiling and odd, retro furnishings, it felt like just the kind of place you would have found a provocative, enticing show of this kind back in the Third Reich. Though the run is done, according to their website, they're in talks to start a new London tour. Keep your eyes peeled, and if you see Halwelt Kultur return to the stage go and see it, and then buy another ticket because you'll want to come back for more of this deliciously brazen and moving cabaret.

Halbwelt Kultur, at Battersea Mess and Music HallNik Way reviews Halbwelt Kultur at the Battersea Mess and Music Hall.5