If you pardon the joke: I have No Regrets having gone to The Life Story & Songs of Edith Piaf. Musical actress and comedienne Sally Jones fills an evening in homage to the iconic French singer and national treasure. In between iterations of the most recognisable chansons, Jones puts them into context, retells the losses of the French legend including the death of Piaf’s “one true love” and her own timely death at 47 following a morphine addiction after two severe, near fatal car accidents. Those who are not fluent in French do not need to fear this show, as Jones paints vivid pictures of love and passion when she summarises the lyrics. Her performances are so heartfelt that the songs’ content become clear in her facial expressions and gestures alone.
Albeit a one-woman-show, Jones is arguably accompanied by Piaf’s aura: it is evident that she genuinely admires the great chanteuse. It is refreshing that she keeps true to herself and does not try to imitate Piaf in looks nor in voice. She sings The well-known work accurately but does not copy, managing to make the songs her own without desperately trying to press her personality onto the material.
After a slow start with a rather long-winded slideshow of Piaf, Jones confidently masters the challenge of captivating the audience without the help of any other attention-grabbing action happening on stage, such as fantastical light shows, costume changes, choreographies or even a fascinating stage design. This brave move is simultaneously the strength and major flaw of the show. Strength because Jones is charming and seems to excel under the pressure of doing the legacy of Piaf justice with all eyes on her; flaw because there is little to be entertained by if you are not either a full-blooded Sally Jones or chanson fan.
No Regrets – The Life Story & Songs of Edith Piaf makes for a lovely romantic evening with a significant other or with a group of friends who enjoy this type of music. However, a hazy ballroom with French wine and cheese was missing – I feel that this programme may have worked better in such a setting.
Reviewed by Lisa Theresa Downey-Dent