Fringe THEATRE REVIEW: Edith Piaf Live at Nimegue @Rialto Theatre

Brian Butler May 20, 2019

Andrew Farr is absolutely amazing!

A lifelong passion for the songs of Edith Piaf has led to this 2-hour tribute to the diminutive French chanteuse.

Brighton-based performer Andrew is witty, sad, emotional and provides an enormously glorious theatrical experience . For the second time in less than two weeks, the Rialto Theatre technicians experienced a failure of lights and sound on a show, delaying Andrew’s show by 15 minutes and marooning him in semi darkness on the stage.

But when he got going, he was on super dry form. Seated at a Parisian style cafe table, he’s dressed immaculately in striking blue suit, red tie, white shirt and alligator shoes. This is significant as it was the outfit Edith bought for all her many male lovers.

The first half of the show is an amusing and informative narrative covering Piaf’s rollercoaster life and sad early death, punctuated by full-throated renditions of some of her best-loved songs.

And Andrew has side-swipes about Hove, where he says “there is one artisan patisserie per head of population.”

But it is his healthy obsession with Piaf that drives the show forward, kicking off with MiLord, which was the first Piaf song he heard in 1971 on Desert Island Discs. With slides and acidic remarks he charts her rise from the gutters of Paris to be one of the highest paid entertainers of her era.

Her infatuation with men in uniform is explained by her when the GI’s arrive she says: “I had a horizontal collaboration with the Allies”. When she had gay boyfriends, she described them as “men who lick both sides of the stamp”.

And as Andrew dryly remarks; “she was the good time had by all”. And she had as many good one-liners as Andrew does. When asked about her excessive drinking she said that she drank red wine when she was drinking; white wine when she was cutting down and rose when she had stopped.

Leaving us for the interval, Andrew urges us to return “The wig alone is worth the price of admission”.

And as the full house settled down for Act 2, Andrew transformed himself absolutely magically into the old-before-her-time singer, bowed over by arthritis, frizzy depleted hair and those memorable hand gestures which we all remember.

This is no rose-tinted impersonation. His Piaf is fragile, sometimes anguished, often tearful and clearly in mental and physical pain. But the voice – oh the voice is there. A frenetic mesmerising rendition of Padam, is followed by La Foule. In her dressing room she tells us “It’s not the doctors or drugs that keep me alive- it’s the singing.”

Song after song in this half are heartwarming and brilliantly put across – Mon Manège a Moi, L’Accordioniste, MiLord again, No regrets of course and la Vie en Rose.

Beg, borrow or steal to get a ticket for Andrew’s final 2 shows on May 27 and 28. It’s probably the most uplifting time you will have in Brighton in May.

The show is at the Rialto Theatre, as part of Brighton Fringe.

To book tickets online. click here:

Review by Brian Butler