Prague Fringe 2014
The Sparrow and the Mouse is the story of Edith Piaf told through her less famous half-sister – her longtime companion, Simone Berteaut. It is a well-sung celebration of Edith Piaf’s music told through the eyes of Simone, peppered with bits of welcome humor. Melanie Gall is gifted with a divine voice.
The space is the first thing that captures one’s attention – it is a very tiny, but charming space that agrees with the beads and velvet scarf left strewn onstage.
Sisterscene has put together a light way to recount the life of Edith Piaf, even creatively incorporating the venue into her text. From the get-go, Melanie Gall takes advantage of how intimate her playing space is by inserting interactive bits into her show.
Our solo act not only connects with her audience, putting everyone at ease, but also employs humor throughout her narrative. She effortlessly breaks into song in perfect pitch, each note and each pause obviously very carefully studied. It is clear that she has spent a lot of time working on this music: her vocal work is immaculate, it is like listening to caramel floating on clouds.
As for production design, the colors are striking – the red velvet shawl used on occasion during the show as the narrative unfolds; the emerald green dress she has on, hidden under a sad-looking sweater.
Improvements can be made on tiny details (given more time and budget), such as getting her a better silk robe, for example. It was a good try, but with a space so close to the audience, the minutest distraction, even a wrinkle on a piece of clothing that shouldn’t be there, could be picked up by anyone. Same goes for what to do with how Sisterscene highlights the likeness of Edith Piaf at the end of her act – perhaps some multimedia, or some larger version of the Sparrow held up on its own might prove to be a stronger move in future.
This production would benefit from some assistance backstage – minutiae like curtains being swept back to cover a quick change, or the artist picking up a prop backstage should be technicalities that become invisible to the audience (with the help of an excellent crew), so as not to steal from the performance, and the illusion.
The Sparrow and the Mouse is a celebration of Edith Piaf – firstly, by a very able singer that does the music justice; secondly, by adding humor to the story-telling and thereby reeling in the audience more, making them laugh, and relax more into their seats; and thirdly, by taking on the perspective of Edith’s less-famous life companion, her supposed half-sister, Simone Berteaut.
Now, though I may point out that the costume design and stage management need more attention, this show comes highly-recommended – it is rare to find a successful one-act show to be so easy to watch – with Melanie’s vocal and musical prowess, anything else is just secondary.