Little Theatre Company

Live theatre in the heart of Burton upon Trent

Piaf

by Pam Gems

Performed: June 2013

Piaf by Pam Gems

Review by Dave Stacey

Born in a working-class background, brought up in brothels, an unsophisticated French girl rose to become one of the greatest cabaret singers of the 20th century.

Her colourful life, which ended all too soon – weeks short of her 48th birthday – is grittily portrayed in Piaf, presented by Burton Little Theatre Company at the Brewhouse this week.

The show was a triumph for Katie Haywood as Edith Piaf. Her tremendous performance carried the show.

We have heard her splendid voice many times before, but this was something extra, conveying the aching loneliness of a woman whose days and nights were richly peopled.

She sang many of the songs associated with Piaf, most of them in French, with a superb accent and with the feeling and natural earthiness of Edith added to an impeccable command of the language.

Naturally, Edith’s major hit, Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien (No Regrets) was deeply moving, as were La Vie En Rose and Mon Dieu.

Really, Katie was so good that it would not have mattered much if she alone had the stage, but there were also excellent portrayals by other cast members, notably Sarah Spencer as Piaf’s great friend Marlene Dietrich, who gave a fine rendition of Falling in Love Again.

Among others were Mike Mear as the man who discovered Piaf, John Bowness (who also directed) as the love of her life, and Tom Kounnas as second husband, Theo.

Musical direction was by Tim Robinson whose piano, and Katie Hailstone’s accordion, helped to make this production unforgettable.

Written by Pam Gems, the script included some strong language and there were even simulated sex scenes, but these were elements essential to a brilliant depiction of a life which was sometimes sordid, often traumatic and painful. They should not cause offence or lend themselves to salacious feelings.

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