Edinburgh Fringe 2015
The story of an irrepressible French woman finding love in the lead up to World War Two and her determination to find her way back to her gentlemanly if rather awkward English fiancée after years of separation.
We first meet Christian, the Chrissy of the show’s title, when she bursts into the room with multiple suitcases greeting us with a series of hearty “Bonjour”s. She is an exuberant, quirky creature with round glasses to help her myopia and a cheeky smile to charm us with. As she shares the story of how she came to be there in Gare Du Nord (that’s the North train station, as she helpfully explains the English speakers), we cannot help but become fully invested in this woman and her journey through love and war.
Chrissy is played by talented performer and deviser Caroline Horton whose personal connection to this story is revealed in due course. Horton is certainly one of the most engaging solo performers at this festival. Her portrayal of Chrissy is theatrical with a heightened, at times almost clown-like physicality, drawing on clichés of French versus English culture for humour but never reducing her to a caricature. She plays all the other characters in the piece as Chrissy imitating them rather than playing them realistically, which gives her room to exaggerate their idiosyncrasies in a mischievous way. Horton has been performing the show for a few years now but has not lost any of the joy of sharing this gorgeous story with a new audience. In her capable hands, the very likeable Chrissy comes to life, and even the struggles of life during Nazi occupation and an extended separation from the man she wants to marry are delivered with humour and a twinkle in her eye.
Clever use of suitcases which open to reveal painted cardboard cut-out landscapes evoke the locations of the story in a simple but highly effective way. A string of balloons represents both letters arriving and bombs exploding. This is clearly a show designed for easy touring and part of its beauty is in this simplicity and homemade feel.
This is a piece with universal appeal. After watching a series of heavy, serious pieces of theatre it is a relief to leave a show on a high, close to happy tears after being gifted this neatly packaged present of a show wrapped with love.