Thursday 15 March 2012

Piaf - The Songs - Review

Pleasance Theatre, Islington


This review was originally written for The Public Reviews

Simply staged, with roses adorning two tables, and a white backdrop, Eve Loiseau as Piaf evoked “ the Little Sparrow” with a delightful precision and clarity in an evening that paid homage to the French legend. Opening with La Vie en Rose, Loiseau delivered Piaf’s classic with an authentic yet fragile strength and on closing one’s eyes, it was possible to truly hear the subtleties and nuances of Piaf’s timbre in Loiseau’s performance. The quality of her mimicry put me in mind of Tracie Bennett’s recent Garland, and Jane Horrock’s wonderful Little Voice.

The set list for the evening was well thought out and included most of Piaf’s classic hits, together with a sprinkling of lesser known numbers. At times, Loiseau interjected with stories of Piaf, marking out not only the singer’s achievements but also the tragedies of her difficult life.

But whilst the music and singing were superbly performed, the production as a whole was less than perfect. The show’s first half was beset with sound faults that should have been picked up in rehearsal and the backdrop was an extremely creased fabric. Much of the performance’s visual impact was created by back projected stills and grainy archive footage shone on to the backcloth and the poor quality of this screen created an air of unprofessionalism that the performers did not deserve. The lack of programme to credit the performers and creative team also did them a disservice.
Accompanying Loiseau were Fiona Barrow on violin, and Edward Jay on accordion. Their delightful performances were as evocative as those of the singer. The show’s overture and subsequent entr’acte, whilst perhaps a little too long, were delightfully atmospheric, lacking only the pungent smell of Gauloises to replicate the air of 1950s Paris.

Notwithstanding the various flaws, the show packed a punch. Act One included such gems as Padam Padam and Autumn Leaves and the second half built to a skillfully manipulated climax with Loiseau singing a feisty Milord, before closing the show with Piaf’s signature tune Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien, that had many of the audience clearly moved.

Loiseau treats her material with a combination of respect and excellence and she and her musicians are 5 star performers in a show that needs just a little tightening up. If you enjoy the Piaf sound, then go: you will not be disappointed.

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