Sunday 19 October 2014

Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris - Review

Charing Cross Theatre, London


Music and original lyrics by Jacques Brel
Concept and English translations by Eric Blau and Mort Shuman
Directed by Andrew Keates

David Burt, Eve Polycarpou, Gina Beck and Daniel Boys

After the success of Andrew Keates' recent chamber adaptation of Dessa Rose at the Trafalgar Studios, he returns to direct this curiously titled show that treats its audience to a feast of haunting theatrical delight, executed with some sophistication. Brel was an acclaimed Belgian composer of theatrical songs. An acclaimed actor too and although destined to die tragically young at 49, his work was to influence a diverse selection of singers including Leonard Cohen, David Bowie and Marc Almond.

Daniel Boys and Gina Beck, both established names on London's West End, fare well in the simplicity and intimacy of this revue. Beck gives a sound performance accommodating the varied stylings of Brel’s work. One number, My Death, markig the stand out moment of her contribution. Boys’ vocal style affords him a secure performance, with his support distinctly noticeable in the larger numbers.

Eve Polycarpou, an increasingly familiar character on London’s stages, brings great depth of character to several of her songs, her Ne Me Quitte Pas, finely accompanied on guitar, being quite the standout of her set. David Burt’s approach to some of the more comic numbers within the piece is welcomed, with his Funeral Tango proving much the crowd pleaser.

Keates’ direction provides a cohesive narrative and flow to this varied revue of song and style, but there are times when Sam Spencer Lane’s choreography, although often imaginative, can fail to enhance both plot and staging. Chris de Wilde's design provides a sparse yet characterful set, boasting flavours of forgotten drama, whilst Dean Austin’s delightful 5 piece onstage band supports well, providing a dutifully decadent Parisian atmosphere.

This eclectic show, from a writer not broadly known in the mainstream, proves to be a bijou gem that is, in parts, quite charming. Performed and executed by a talented cast and creative team, Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris offers a genuinely intriguing look into Brel's work. It is well worth a visit.

Runs until 22nd November

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