Born in 1929, Jacques Brel was one of the most respected singer/songwriters of his generation. This astonishing piece of theatre rediscovers the genius of his music with its aching melodies and often cruel lyrics.
The poetry and passion of his work is thrillingly interpreted by an international cast with dazzling choreography, original arrangements and new English lyrics by Andrew Wale.
The Devil (Le Diable)
Tender Hearts (Coeurs Tendres)
Jacky (La Chanson De Jacky)
Homecoming Litany (Litanies Pour Un Retour)
The Last Supper (Le Dernier Repas)
Sober (A Jeun)
When We Only Have Love (Quand On na Que LAmour)
And The Next (Au Suivant)
Titine/ Madeleine (Titine/Madeleine)
You Can’t Leave Me Now (Ne Me Quitte Pas)
Waltz (La Valse A Mille Temps)
Old People (Les Vieux)
Death (La Mort)
Les Marquises (Les Marquises)
To Watch A Friend In Pain (Voir Un Ami Pleurer)
"....delivers each song like a gunshot to the heart" The Guardian
One of the best shows at the Edinburgh Festival this was the Anonymous Society's brilliant package of songs by Jacques Brel, the legendary Belgian singer of the Fifties. But this is no cafe croon-in, more a fully-fledged piece of performance theatre. It lasts just 75 minutes and this gives these wonderfully plangent songs a startling new life.
Just listen to the cast - largely Belgian - singing in English, 19 songs by the seminal master of mood is a genuinely theatrical experience. The sense of loss and death goes the way of the Charles Aznavour dial. Brel's famous Ne Me Quitte Pas is here savagely despairing and, like most of these numbers (including the haunting To Watch A Friend In Pain), it grips the heart like an icy hand. It helps that the cast features three beautiful women to front a mixed team, men often singing women's parts and vice versa. A piano and accordion, plus occasional electric guitar, are the accompaniment; strobe lighting and a sofa to accommodate the performer-singers suggest a comfiness not found in the music.
Andrew Wale's and Perrin Allen's fractured, disturbing staging - choreography by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui - is dislocated and stylish. The obsessive twitching and fidgeting give a thoroughly wired feel. Yet it is the music that counts - its truth, its aching intensity. The show becomes an almost masochistic pleasure as the songs cut deeper and deeper.