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Brighton Fringe 2014

Jacques Brel: Une Vie A Mille Temps

Gambolling Arena (UK)

Genre: Musical Theatre

Venue: The Warren


Low Down

 A journey through the songs of Jacques Brel reflecting his views on life with reflections from his daughters on their relationship with him.


 ‘Une Vie A Mille Temps’ is a pleasant look at the songs of Jacques Brel seen through the eyes of his daughters, adapted from interviews with Brel and his daughters. The main part of the show is his wonderful songs, mostly sung in English so that the audience can understand them. Simon Pennicott, who wrote the piece, also plays Jaques Brel in a very personable way. He sings the songs well but without some of the passion that Brel was so famous for. He also speaks words that Jacques Brel wrote and spoke. His diction in the songs is perfect so that one can hear every word but there is no attempt to act the role of Brel. With his long hair he doesn’t convince me that he is Jacques Brel. Perhaps this isn’t important as it is the second show I have seen on the Fringe where no attempt is made to play the character of a famous person.  I do feel though that these shows would be better if they were acted more. The two daughters played by Clare Chandler and Lisa McKinley sing well with every word clear as a bell and the harmonies are very tuneful. Again, no attempt to play the characters but just to use their words.  I do wonder if it is enough to just use peoples’ words without trying to get into the character of the people.

The show is performed on a bare stage with three chairs making it easy to perform anywhere. It is interesting to hear the daughters’ views on their relationship with their father who, it seems, didn’t have much time for them but as they say “He gave us something more important than most fathers give – a heritage for the whole world, not just for his daughters” ( a rather sad reflection in my opinion). One cannot really describe this as a play because there is no acting and no real story but it is an enjoyable voyage through some superb Jacques Brel songs. I am rather confused by the final song being ‘The Impossible Dream’ from the musical ‘Man of La Mancha’ and not a song by Brel but on further research I see that he played Don Quixote in the musical when he had given up performing in concerts and in fact he translated and adapted the musical into French.

This is an enjoyable show, courageously sung without radio mikes to great effect but do not expect to learn very much about this famous Belgian singer/songwriter or to understand why he inspired so many English speaking artists.