Spoken Word

GaryDirecting, Performing, Writing

This post originally appeared on the Piaf Remembered website…

When Katy Jungmann asked me to become involved in Piaf Remembered I was, to be honest, a little reluctant. Katy’s idea was to produce a short piece featuring the songs of Edith Piaf, but with a more theatrical slant than the normal gig. This would mean heading down the path of my writing something, and the inevitable danger of producing a lecture illustrated with songs (rather than slides). I was however persuaded, because I love the music and Piaf’s voice.

So, music, song, and the spoken word…

Though the avoidance of the lecture format was paramount I was keen not to impose an arbitrary theatricality on the show, hence the more left-field approaches (almost all of which involved considerable interaction between Piaf and a loosely defined character) were quickly dropped, and I approached the work from the perspective of memory. In particular, one individual’s memory. Edith Piaf looms very large in the collective memories of the French public, she is both an icon, and a representative of a very romantic ‘back & white’ age. Piaf also holds sway in the memory of (particularly) an older generation in other countries. Even those born long after her heyday know of her, her troubled life, and her untimely death. Not least because of the highly successful 2007 biopic La Vie en Rose.

I have chosen to evoke Piaf as a performer through the memories of a man – Robert – who as an 8 year old boy witnessed what was to be Piaf’s last performance at the Olympia Paris Music Hall in 1962 (a place where she had many triumphs). We see and hear Piaf perform through his eyes and ears. French singer Oriana Curls who portrays Piaf is not delivering a tribute act, but rather embodying Piaf through the glory of her song, as remembered by a man who witnessed the concert. Piaf was dead within a year of the concert, but (as with Robert) she lives on in both her recorded music and the memories of those who saw her perform.

So what we have is a fifty minute show featuring 11 of Edith Piaf’s songs (sung in French by Oriana Curls); many well known and some perhaps only familiar too oficiandos, juxtaposed against the memories and story of a young boy who grew to be a man but never forgot the past. You’ll have to come and see the show to find out more.

My father was a great lover of Piaf, and I grew up hearing her via a rather scratched LP of her greatest hits… I got it out and played it the other day. Piaf’s voice is as haunting now as it ever was…