A large percentage of Adelaide’s French community, as well as more than a smattering of our fair city’s Francophiles, braved the chill of Friday evening and eagerly filled the Nexus Cabaret in order to experience a night of French romantic melancholia presented by the Panache Adelaide French Theatre.

Billed as an evening of ‘song’, the show had a broader range of delights than that, and also included a series of dramatic vignettes weaving together the songs and poetry of two legends of the French arts scene of the 1950’s and 1960’s, Jacques Brel and Georges Brassens.

The show was performed exclusively in French, so projections on a large screen at the rear of the stage gave those of us in the audience whose high school French was more than just a little rusty the ability to comprehend the action and depth of emotion of each performance.

These projections were a little problematic at times, seemingly slightly out of synch on more than one occasion, and often hard to read when dark font was placed over the background images used in each slide.

The selection of material was thematically consistent, most exploring the fine line between ecstasy and pain whilst in love, and how these delicious extremes inevitably stay as deeply impactful upon us, and continue to perplex us, for our whole life.

Hence, Brel’s Les Vieux (Old People) and La Chanson des Vieux Amants (Songs Of Old Lovers), as well as Brassens’ Les Amoureux des Bancs Publics (The Benches Of The Lovers), all detail the wild passions of youth and how the intensity of these formative experiences dim steadily until we are crippled with regret at their passing in our old age, magnified by our yearning for those we have loved and lost along the journey.

Madeleine, Brel’s song of undying optimism that relates the story of the hopeful young man waiting, Godot style, each night for the ever elusive Madeleine to accompany him on the tram to buy some chips and catch a film at the cinema, was a beautifully rendered highlight, as was the delicate and poignant, La Priere – Brassens’ prayer of thanks and hope, the penultimate number in this show.

The performers, Tony Kelly on keyboards, Ian Brown, Jean-Francois Gavanon (who also played guitar and piano), Andrew McKenzie, Alison McCall and Irene Castrechini-Sutton, were all consistent and convincing, whether singing, or delivering suitably restrained recitations of the moving poetry.

I left the venue, stoically facing up to the inevitability of my mortality, asking myself, ‘How many regrets form a single shiver?’, and reminded that, whilst love is what we all crave, ‘there is no happy love.’

Just another night at the Cabaret Fringe then!


Two Legends Of French Song: An Evening With Jacques Brel & Georges Brassens, was performed at the Nexus Cabaret, Lion Arts Centre, cnr. Morpheme Street & North Terrace, on June 16 & 17.