Christine Bovill's Piaf at The Stand’s New Town Theatre - Grand Hall is exactly what the show title tells you it is - singer/songwriter Christine Bovill paying homage through songs to one of her personal icons, French and worldwide superstar, Edith Piaf.
Christine is always clear at the beginning of this show that it is not a “tribute show”. Edith Piaf and Christine Bovill do not look alike or sound alike, but what they both have in common is the ability to somehow live out on stage the people in the stories of these wonderfully written songs. For around three minutes or so Christine Bovill (like Edith Piaf) becomes a part of these songs and the world of these little “mini plays”. This show is the spirit of “Chansons Francaises” brought to life by one of the great performers and interpreters of these songs.
These songs are timeless masterpieces written by now legendary writers – names that include Marguerite Monnot, Charles Dumont, Georges Moustaki, Michel Rivgauche, and of course Edith Piaf herself. The songs created here are unlike anything written anywhere else at the time (with the possible exception of Latin America). Through the lyrics of these songs, we are taken to the darker side of life and human emotions where that other great musical song collection of the period, the “Great American Songbook”, would pretty much never dare to explore. Nothing and no one was off limits in these songs.
These are songs of joy and of sorrow, or triumphs and defeats, and Edith Piaf knew all of these things in extremes during her life, and those personal experience are what allowed her to breath so much life and emotion into her performances. Christine Bovill somehow manages to capture that breath of life and emotion too in her performances of these songs.
This show, as usual for any Fringe show, is limited in performance time, so I don’t want to give Christine’s set list away as there is another performance of this show on 20th August. There are some classics here though, and some surprises too. The great love of Edith Piaf’s life, French boxing champion Marcel Cerdan (married of course to another woman - this is Edith Piaf’s story here) is brought to life in songs that reflect the beginning and the tragic end of their relationship - “La Vie En Rose” and “Hymne à l'amour”. The later song is always to me one of the most beautiful love songs ever written, and one of my favourite Edith Piaf songs. Another favourite, “Mon Dieu”, was also in the set list tonight.
Part of the magic of these songs is how simply they can be performed, and singer and pianist is, as tonight, so often the best way to distil the words and music of these songs to their core essence. So much of the atmosphere of the songs of course lies with the singer, but it is also belongs to the pianist, and with the wonderfully expressive and interpretive talents of Michael Brawley, Christine could have no better a collaborator with her on-stage for these iconic songs.
Our final song of the evening was a little snippet of Christine’s other show – Christine Bovill’s Paris (14th and 21st August) with emotional French and English language versions of one of the few French songs of the period to survive an English language re-write and be equally known as one melody but two different stories by two very different performers – the wonderful original song “Je t'appartiens” by Gilbert Becaud, and “Let It Be Me” by The Everly Brothers.
Review by Tom King
Christine Bovill's Piaf
The Stand’s New Town Theatre - Grand Hall
Aug 13, 20
1 hour 10 minutes
Country: United Kingdom - Scotland
Group: Christine Bovill / The Stand Comedy Club