Piaf at the Charing Cross Theatre
Following acclaimed runs at the Brighton Fringe and the Bridewell Theatre, Pam Gems’ Piaf takes up residency at the Charing Cross Theatre for a 5-week run, beginning 1st December 2015, to celebrate the centenary of one of France’s most loved and celebrated singers.
Beginning as a performer on the streets of Paris in the 1930s, this is the tale of the extraordinary rise to fame and rapid fall of Edith Piaf (played by Cameron Leigh), or as she was so fondly known, la môme piaf (“the little sparrow”). Born in the gutter and propelled to stardom thanks to her incredible voice, this story invites the audience harshly into the singer’s life, with a sobering performance that will leave viewers quietly unsettled.
With a fast-paced script and performance, the story seems disjointed in places and jumps quickly from one life event to the next, leaving the audience trying to catch up and add greater depth to each scene. This leads to a production that feels cold, with a distance between the audience and what is happening on the stage.
While Leigh does an admirable job of delivering Piaf’s most famous songs, the performances are a little lacklustre, failing to capture the period feeling of the originals, which so beautifully transport today’s listeners to an earlier era. French speakers may also be left feeling frustrated at the difficulty in catching all the lyrics, as Leigh falls short on diction.
However, Leigh excels in posture, character and emotion. Her portrayal of Piaf’s depression and despair is utterly convincing as the audience witnesses her downward spiral into drug addiction, fuelled by the many unfortunate events in her life. In her signature black dress, hunched torso and general physicality, she brings her character to life, giving us a glimpse into the fragile being of a singer who, to this day, remains shrouded in mystery.
Piaf is on at the Charing Cross Theatre from 1st December until 2nd January 2016, for more information or to book visit here.
Watch the trailer for Piaf here: