HYMN TO LOVE
Devised by Anne Castledine, Steve Trafford & Elizabeth Mansfield.
Jermyn Street Theatre, 16b Jermyn Street, London SW1Y 6ST to 18 August 2018.
Tues-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat & Sun 3.30pm.
Runs 90 mins No interval.
TICKETS: 0207 287 2875.
Review: William Russell 27 July.
An evening of glorious songs
Clearly designed as a showcase for Elizabeth Mansfield, and none the worse for that, this musical show is about the Little Sparrow, Edith Piaf. A small bantam of a woman Mansfield has a very good strong voice but only towards the end of this play devised by Annie Casteldine, Steve Trafford and herself does she manage to inhabit the woman. She sounds too English, almost too suburban for much of the evening, and it is only towards the end when, the account of Piaf’s life, which focuses heavily on her love affair with the boxer Marcel Cerdan, has been delivered and La View En Rose performed as the last number that things change. To start with it is a false ending. Mansfield steps up to the mike to deliver a mini concert which includes the likes of L’Accordeoniste, C’Est A Hambourg and inevitably as closing number – Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien – does the spirit, if never the gritty sound ,of Piaf flood the theatre.
Maybe it is that the earlier songs are sung in English often with lyrics by Steve Trafford that deprives them of the essential Gallic bite. Somehow it all reeks more of the Home Counties than the slums of Paris. Pam Gems wrote a Piaf play way back in 1978 and assorted actresses starting with Jane Lapotaire and going on to the likes of Caroline O’Connor, Francis Rufelle and Elaine Paige have given us their Edith, much as male actors give us their Hamlet. But Gems’ play is not necessarily the be and the end all and this does take a different approach to Piaf.
In this version she is in her hotel room rehearsing with her pianist and learns of the death of the love of her life, which prompts her to tell the pianist about her past. It works well enough, but somehow there is something excessively genteel about it all. This is not a woman from the streets, well though Mansfield sings. There are, however, some interesting video clips of Cerdan which show just how charismatic he was, and Patrick Bridgman at the piano gives Mansfield first rate support. The piece is certainly more than just another tribute show, a parade of greatest hits, although oddly it is when at the end Mansfield does deliver those is when it works best. So plaudits for the lady, especially once she gets down and streetwise at the end are in order.
The singer: Elizabeth Mansfield.
The Pianist: Patrick Bridgeman.
Director: Damian Cruden.
Lighting Designer: Andrew J Lindsay.
Sound Designer: Yvonne Gilbert.
Production Manager: Philip Geller.
Production Photographs: Robert Day.