Edith Piaf would have turned 100 this year so it seems fitting to perform Piaf, the tale of her life written by Pam Gems in 1978. The cast of multi- talented actors and musicians bring to life the laughter, loves, tragedies and most importantly the songs of Piaf’s world.
Piaf’s life was full of drama and makes for an interesting story. We see her rise from life on the streets of Paris, her early career as a nightclub singer and her eventual superstardom. Her tale is told here through stand- alone scenes which introduce some of the key characters and moments in her life. The story is punctuated with performances of Piaf’s songs, some better known than others but all well chosen to fit with the action.
Cameron Leigh is impressive as Piaf; her expressive face and physicality take her from a youthful girl to a fading drug-addled star convincingly. The singer’s pain, both physical and emotional is laid bare. The rest of the cast play multiple roles. Valerie Cutko plays Marlene Dietrich with enthusiasm; her statuesque figure makes Leigh’s tiny Piaf seem all the more frail. The male ensemble plays the many men in Piaf’s life as well as providing the musical accompaniment to many of the songs.
The Bridewell Theatre is built over an old swimming pool in the City of London and the space works well for this small production. The stage is deep and has plenty of space for a grand piano and musicians as well as the actors without feeling crowded. The lighting is well used to take us from the spotlights of the stage to the streets of Paris and Piaf’s other haunts.
I learnt a lot about Edit Piaf’s life from this production but it is by no means the whole story. What makes this performance great is the musical performances. Cameron Leigh is most definitely the star of the show; Non, Je ne Regrette Rien had the audience on their feet.
Reviewed by Rhiannon Evans
Piaf is playing at the Bridewell Theatre until 14 November 2015. Click here for tickets