Christine Bovill is back at The Edinburgh Festival Fringe performing at The New Town Theatre in George Street with her ever popular Christine Bovill’s Paris show. Tonight’s performance was the first in a 9 show run (including two performances of Christine’s famous Piaf show) this year, and as always it was something special to watch a girl who grew up in Glasgow and learned French initially to understand the lyrics of Edith Piaf records, transform into the woman before us now – a classic French chanteuse so at home not only with the “Chansons Francaises” catalogue of songs, but somehow embodying their very spirit.
This show is a very personal introduction by Christine into her world of song, and what a world. The classic period of “Chansons Francaises” from roughly late 1920s to the 1950s (and into the 1960s) produced work from some of the greatest songwriters and performers of the 20th century - Charles Trenet, Charles Aznavour, Gilbert Bécaud ,Jacques Brel, Juliette Greco, Barbara and of course Edith Piaf. This collective work of songs is probably the only one out there to match the Great American Songbook and many would argue that it actually surpasses it as it is at times more like a dark mirror of its American counterpart tackling many areas of the darker side of life and the human psyche that its counterpart would never venture into.
Christine Bovill is a classic performer with a classic voice, and both skills were easily evident tonight in songs such as “La Mer”, “Amsterdam”, “La Vie En Rose”, “Tous Les Visages de L’Amour”, and of course “Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien”. Interesting too to explore with Christine how many songs, including one of my all time favourites “Let it Be Me”, are actually originally French. If you are old enough you will always associate this song with The Everly Brothers, but this is in fact a re-written English language version of the lyrically totally different French original “Je T'appartiens” written and performed by Gilbert Becaud. Christine of course seamlessly includes both versions in her performance here and does the same with “Les Feuilles Mortes” which the great American composer Johnny Mercer re-wrote lyrically in English as "Autumn Leaves”.
This is a performance with nowhere to hide as the stage set up is simple – Christine and a solo pianist. None of these songs are easy to sing and they are even more difficult to capture in their essence, and in the wrong hands they can so easily become just words. Few singers have the ability of Christine Bovill to bring them to life on stage before you. Probably one of the most technically difficult for both singer and pianist with its ever changing time modulations was a wonderfully performed version of “L'Homme En Habit Rouge” performed in classic form and style from both Christine Bovill and Michael Roulston on piano
Christine Bovill also has a new album out – Christine Bovill’s Paris, so you can take these floating memories of Paris home with you.
Review by Tom King