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Previewed 16 October 2008, Opened 21 October 2008, Closed 24 January 2009 at the Vaudeville Theatre in London
A major revival of Pam Gems' play with songs, Piaf in London featuring Elena Roger in the title role.
From the streets of Paris to worldwide fame, Edith Piaf continues to be remembered and revered for her exceptional voice and extraordinary life. In this new production of Pam Gems' classic 1978 play, the life of one of the 20th century's greatest singers is retold vividly capturing the glamour and squalor, the rise and fall of this complex, fragile and enigmatic performer.
The cast for Piaf in London features Elena Roger in the title role along with Shane Attwooll, Phillip Browne, Lorraine Buce, Luke Evans, Michael Hadley, Katherine Kingsley and Steve John Shepherd. It is directed by Jamie Lloyd with designs by Soura Gilmour, lighting by Neil Austin and sound by Christopher Shutt. This production transfers to the West End's Vaudeville Theatre following a critically acclaimed season at the Donmar Warehouse during August and September 2008. Elena Roger's West End theatre credits include the title role of Michael Grandage's revival of the Andrew Lloyd Webber / Tim Rice musical Evita (Adelphi Theatre 2006) and Matthew Warchus' revival of Marc Camoletti's Boeing Boeing (Harold Pinter Theatre 2007). Jamie Lloyd's London theatre directing credits include Harold Pinter's double-bill The Lover and The Collection (Harold Pinter Theatre 2008).
The director of Piaf, Jamie Lloyd said: "It's important that it's not a sentimental piece. It would be cheesy to have her wearing her heart on her sleeve. She was a tyrant and manipulative but she could also be warm and witty."
"The Little Sparrow came back to fluttery life last night in the remarkable sound and form of the actress and singer Elena Roger in a stunning performance of a show that literally brings tears to the eyes. This is probably the most outstanding single performance I have seen this year, and this tiny actress literally became Piaf from the moment she walked on to the stage, frail and birdlike but full of heart-tugging power... Although jerky at times in the earlier scenes, Miss Roger guides her spellbound audience through her many boulevards of sadness... Miss Roger also manages to examine, in this beautifully observed performance, how basically strong Piaf was in terms of character and ambition... Like Piaf, she definitely has nothing to regret." The Daily Express
"Niceties first: the lighting really is excellent, and Jamie Lloyd's production rattles on at a cracking pace. In a show about Piaf, however, only one element - the actress - matters.... Elena Roger can't hide her Argentine roots, in her accent or even in her body language, so she's at her most convincing soaring through the epic choruses, rather than enunciating little French phrases. Still, she makes a convincing Parisian chancer, especially to an Anglophone crowd." The Sunday Times
"It is, no question, a remarkable impersonation. Elena Roger... as Edith Piaf in Pam Gems's 30-year-old play, she blazes as both guttersnipe and diva... When Roger sings 'l'Accordeoniste', she mimics Piaf's disconcerting intermittent licking of her fingers. She plays air accordion, and rubs her palms along her little black dress, as Piaf did; she makes it, as Piaf did, a song about a woman who is being played, and who ends with a suicidal wail... All this is gripping, but it is high-grade mimicry rather than re-creation: impressive, not affecting. As is the whole production. Jamie Lloyd's direction reinforces each effect with a scatter of shrewd but noticeable manoeuvres." The Observer
"Why did we ever think this was any good? The biodrama Piaf by Pam Gems - when premiered by the RSC in 1979 - transferred to the West End and to Broadway. Presumably the French chanteuse's life, glimpsed in splinters, seemed stylistically exciting back then... In the starring role, Elena Roger is an extraordinary presence, her gaunt, glassy-eyed face perched atop a tiny body. This Argentine singer, doing a French accent, mercifully avoids recreating Gems's cockney sparrow - a sort of charmless Eliza Doolittle. That said, her limited acting ability is exposed on this thrust stage. Though she wells up during one of her many chansons, you get no real sense that her character has been through the emotional mill." The Independent on Sunday
"The standing ovation for Edith Piaf at the vast Carnegie Hall in New York lasted an astonishing 20 minutes, we are told in Pam Gems's Piaf. The scale was somewhat smaller at the Donmar Warehouse but none the less heartfelt as the audience leapt to its feet to applaud Elena Roger's gutsy evocation of France's most celebrated chanteuse... Argentine actress Roger dazzled as Eva Peron in Evita, but up close, as you can't help but be at the Donmar, she is even more extraordinary. There's nothing special about Roger's slutty street urchin whose head seems too big for her stunted body, until she sings. Then, it's as if a light comes on from within. Her huge eyes burn bright and her guttural voice, like Piaf's, emerges from her soul and scorches with its dark, despairing love songs." The Mail on Sunday
Piaf in London at the Vaudeville Theatre previewed from 16 October 2008, opened on 21 October 2008 and closed on 24 January 2009.