For many, Jacques Brel is synonymous with raw, dark cabaret which exudes despair, fear, loneliness and black humour. This atmosphere was heightened in the especially set-up Space Theatre, which was only lacking thick clouds of cigarette smoke and weeping sailors to completely transform it into a mid-century Parisian or Brusselier nightclub.
Helen Morse, doyenne of Australian theatre, purportedly told Kate Ceberano (the Festival’s Artistic Director) that she was nervous when agreeing to do this show because she was concerned that she could not sing. She need not have been so worried. Haunting and evocative, her voice provided a brilliant counter-point to musical theatre royalty John O’May and the beautiful Lucy Maunder.
Portraying Brel’s interwoven stories of love, loss, joy and sadness through philosophical quotes and a broad range of Brel’s playlist – mostly translated into English – which included his most famous hits such as ‘Les Bourgeois’, ‘Amsterdam’ and of course a poignant version of the devastating ‘Ne me quitte pas’, this is a beautiful, evocative show, performed masterfully by the trio of chanteurs. A wonderful cabaret show, if perhaps one that is most suited to fans of Brel or at least of French/Belgian cabaret.