Reviewed by David O’Brien
Cabaret Festival. Dunstan Playhouse. 17 June 2022
Louise Blackwell is a well known musical Francophile around Adelaide’s live scene. Partnered with her exquisite band The French Set, Blackwell has extolled the joys of French song to live music lovers with great, committed passion.
Louise Blackwell – Love on the Left Bank is her deep, profound, bravura exposition and tribute to the life of France’s most profoundly influential chanteuse of song and culture post WWII – Juliette Grèco.
Director Catherine Fitzgerald and Musical Director/Arrangements Mark Ferguson provide Blackwell with perfect structural support needed, allowing her to offer a sublimely svelte, smooth moving, thought provoking, captivating and emotionally layered experience to an audience, who were enraptured.
Enraptured by an artist looking like Grèco but much more importantly, delivering the goods vocally, politically and emotionally. Pick a song, the popular ones are there; Sous Le ciel de Paris, Dèshabillez Moi to mention two. Blackwell’s performance is staggering in its command of emotion, sensibility and vocal prowess that follows Grèco’s lead with room for her own voice in emulating her.
Fitzgerald’s direction ensures a smooth flowing ebb of movement and energy from Blackwell and band, and not just physically. The subtle transitions from Blackwell narrating, to Blackwell as Grèco speaking are masterful. Blackwell’s every gesture and movement around the stage perfectly partners her beautiful narrative of Grèco’s life with an intensity that hits home with thoughtful, not brutal, gravitas, That gravitas is backed up musically by a band that is pitch perfect, exquisite in its taut, yet gently textured layering of strings and brass.