nick730 (nick730) wrote,

Theatre review: Piaf

Piaf by Pam Gems is a play about the famous rice dish. Oh wait, that's Pilaf1. Non, c'est actually un play about Edith Piaf, of "Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien" fame, and appropriately enough this song comes at the very end, after we've seen all the things she might have had cause to regret. In Jamie Lloyd's very fast-paced production at the Donmar Warehouse, Elena Roger in the title role is more or less centre stage throughout, with the rest of the cast in multiple roles rushing in and out of her life at speed. To start with the pace is almost too much, and major events just rush by, but once you get used to the play's rhythm it works really well and you get caught up in a series of clever stagings: I especially liked the effect of a spotlight thrown on Roger when she performed one song in the style of a puppet - the shadow of her skinny frame on the back wall seems eerily as if she really is on strings.

The rest of the cast is impressive in their multiple roles and super-quick costume changes. Luke Evans of "that's him in the avatar there" fame returns to the Donmar to join the ensemble, and gets a particularly memorable comedy scene as Piaf's latest protege, a supremely awkward singer who turns out to be Yves Montand. Stuart Neal is another bit of eye candy, while Katherine Kingsley makes a credible Marlene Dietrich. But all eyes are of course on Elena Roger, and she's brilliant as Piaf, deservedly getting a standing ovation (I think it's the first one I've seen this year.)

Soutra Gilmour's set is also worth a mention, a well-realised crumbling old proscenium arch theatre with the iconic cobblestones on the stage. By throwing so many events of the singer's life into a 90-minute show, Gems doesn't go in for a deep exploration of any one relationship, presenting Piaf instead as someone who had life thrown at her. The play's hook is in building up the overall picture of a life, interspersed with the famous songs, and showing how her joys and heartbreaks, many self-inflicted, went into making the iconic performances she's still famous for. Another unmissable show from the Donmar then.

Piaf by Pam Gems is booking until the 20th of September at the Donmar Warehouse.

1it's frankly embarassing how long I've wanted to do that lame joke.
Tags: jamie lloyd, luke evans, theatre

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