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Review: HYMN TO LOVE, Jermyn Street Theatre

Review: HYMN TO LOVE, Jermyn Street Theatre

Review: HYMN TO LOVE, Jermyn Street Theatre It's 1957 and Edith Piaf is rehearsing her for her last concert in the United States, she recounts the heartbreaks in her life singing through her pain. Directed by Damian Cruden, Elizabeth Mansfield becomes Piaf once again - a role she's been doing on-and-off steadily throughout her career - and is, obviously, stunning.

Half-cabaret-half-grand-tragedy, the show is packed with healthy nostalgia. From the intertitles projected onto a white curtain to the silent but omnipresent pianist (Patrick Bridgman), the production longs to remember an era that's passed us by. Mansfield slowly dresses up for her concert, lightly pacing the fluffy cream-coloured carpet while her drinking problem looms large on her.

She portrays France's national treasure as an icon as she speaks first of her humble origins and then about her big relationships which made headlines. Bridgman, in all his silent persona, is as much a character as the singer. He provides emotional support from afar and slips her a glass or two hiding his judgement.

Cruden's direction is attentive but the main storyline of the material has the tendency to digress and wander. Piaf's alcoholism isn't delivered as hauntingly as one wishes but he does a minutious job in explaining the role that different people had in her life.

The use of projections, albeit abused at times, comes in handy in setting the chanteuse in place and time, as Steve Trafford's script isn't too specific directly. Photos of Marcel Cerdan among others also help to set the ambience of the show, almost lifting the scene to an oneiric level.

Trafford also translates the songs, making Piaf's experiences come to life clearly to British ears. Mansfield works her way through the classics with precision and emotion, her voice never falters as Piaf's spirit flutters in the room. The ending drags on for a little while but it would have been a shame not to listen to Mansfield's renditions of Piaf's best of.

A celebration of love with a dash of tragedy, Hymn to Love marks the end of the Jermyn Street Theatre's Reaction Season and their first year as a producing house. A success for Artistc Director Tom Littler, who definitely raised the bar for the theatre with choices like Mad as Hell and his own Tonight at 8:30. Here's to more with his Rebels Season!

Hymn to Love runs at Jermyn Street Theatre until 18 August.

Photo credit: Robert Day




From This Author - Cindy Marcolina

Italian export. Member of the Critics' Circle (Drama). Also a script reader and huge supporter of new work. Twitter: @Cindy_Marcolina

... (read more about this author)

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