Brighton Fringe 2014
‘Love Conquers All’ examines, with words and music, the private life of Edith Piaf and tells of her love for men and her love of singing in front of her public.
This is an interesting production, well sung and performed but let down by the visual aspect of the play. Laurene Hope, who plays Piaf, is a talented performer but when she first appears on stage she wears an obviously synthetic wig and has a large radio mike with the cable very eminent, flapping about her front. This impression, coupled with the too modern look of her costume worked against the credibility of the character. It may perhaps have been better to commence the play as an older Piaf because she does not give the image of a young Piaf when she first enters and it takes a while to realise that we are watching a young Edith Piaf. I also do not believe a radio mike is needed, especially in an intimate theatre like The Dukebox. Last week I watched a performance of Company by Sondheim without radio mikes and with a backing of flute and piano which worked incredibly well. Laurene could still use the stand up mike for some of the songs. I very much enjoy the songs she sings with the live pianist and with the accordion which she herself plays. I can understand the need for a backing track for the songs she sings as if in a concert but feel that more live music would add to the atmosphere. I certainly do not believe a radio mike is needed for the speech and the visual impact of a large mike detracts from the characterisation.
However, although not resembling ‘The Little Sparrow’, Laurene Hope does capture the spirit of Piaf and shows how she became addicted to drugs and sex while living a very hollow and lonely existence. We learn snippets about her life and although the play is about her loves and determination to sing, I feel there could be more information about all the people she knew. The deterioration of her life in the second half is moving but again more information could be given. For instance it seems in the play as if she had died from drugs & alcohol misuse rather than from liver cancer, although the drugs and alcohol probably contributed to the cancer. She has a good singing voice and sings the songs in a mixture of French and English which helps the non-French speakers to understand what the songs were about, many of which Piaf wrote the words and reflected what was going on in her life. She interacts well with the audience whilst telling the story, has great energy and moves the play along for the two halves of 45 minutes. At the end, I feel I have been entertained but also that I could have learnt more about one of the most famous and interesting of French singers.
This is a play which hold great promise but needs more attention to detail. I enjoy watching it but overall feel that I haven’t quite understood how she became such a famous and well loved personality in France.