I'm a freelance writer living in the Adelaide Hills.
A love letter to a time and place
Tres chic in Montmatre
Ah, Paris, in La Belle Époque, circa 1890s – 1910, the era of artists, romance, and bohemian life. And Montmartre, the epicentre of art, music, and dance, where the bohemia of Paris would dream and night birds and cabaret singers would thrive. This is the world chanteuse Nikki Nouveau evokes in song, via the music of Cole Porter, Serge Gainsbourg, Joe Dassin, Jacques Brel, Erik Satie and of course Edith Piaf. Nouveau, the story-teller, gives us intimate tales of lives transformed by the most notorious district of Paris, where she lived for several months to research, interview locals and visit well-known establishments such as Le Chat Noir, Moulin Rouge, Le Lapin Agile, the Museum of Montmartre and the Dali Paris Museum.
A compact set comprising piano and polished accompanist David McEvoy, a nightclub-style table and chair and a multimedia screen await the fans of cabaret as they enter the Star Theatre Two auditorium. McEvoy plays and the lights dim. The spirit of a long-gone Bohemian age appears in silhouette at first, then bathed in light, she dances. In tones of cool elegance, she invites us on a nostalgic journey to Montmartre in Paris, beginning with La Belle Époque, those fabled last years of the nineteenth century, to the haunt of Toulouse-Lautrec and countless other artists and artistes, dreamers of dreams and dancers to the tunes of love, life, liberté… now, this could come across as schmaltzy and clichéd in the hands of a lesser artist. It is not as if this is the first time a one-woman show has tackled the Golden Era of Bohemian Paris. But Nouveau has an elfin, Piaf-like style that invites us to take her to our hearts.
This is a show with something for most with a liking for music and romance, and not just dyed-in-the-wool Francophiles. Nouveau's storytelling - paired as it is with the ever-shifting multi-media imagery to connect the song and dance dots - transcends the limitations of one-hander shows. Her love of subject resonates and encourages the artist within us all to be transported to that fabled land by this ethereal spirit of an age. Not only has Nouveau through studied rehearsal and singing training made many French classics her own, but she knows Montmartre's streets and buildings. We see them in multimedia as the digital accompaniment maintains pace with her spare, yet well-sign-posted narrative.
Along with the classics, she gives us original compositions La Rue Pigalle (Nouveau/Upward), Absinthe Tango (Nouveau/Thorn) and Champagne (Nouveau). When Picasso and Dali get a mention, their work dances across the screen in time with the songs. When war comes to change forever Montmartre's magnetic hold on artists and dreamers, she plays the Piaf card and gives us an Act-One-closing restrained yet moving rendition of La Vie En Rose.
Montmartre! Rendezvous In Paris is Nouveau's love letter to a time and place unique in the worlds of art and music, a bygone era with a timeless appeal, distilled onstage in an hour that really does, as her notes suggest, 'resonate in the heart of audiences long after the show'. She is currently in discussion with venues and theatres to tour the show around metro and regional art centres of Australia. The June 3 and 4 Adelaide Cabaret Fringe performances on the intimate stage at Star Theatre No 2 at Hilton reveal a polished show that is more-than-ready to roll. ****