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Tuesday, March 01, 2022

Fringe Festival - Chansons - Piaf, Brel and Me - Stefanie Rummel

The award-winning singer and actress, German born Stefanie Rummel presents “Chansons” her ‘musical theatre cabaret show’ about France.

‘Soul touching’ stories about life and songs from ‘Ne me quitte pas’ (Brel) to ‘Milord’ (Piaf) are performed in ‘Brilliant showmanship’ by Stefanie Rummel and her pianists.

Become part of the French way of living for one night without traveling and having jetlag. It does not matter if you speak French or not. This ‘Heart connecting performance’ can inspire our own lives by looking at other cultures. Online and offline shows are performed in theaters and cabarets in Germany, Iceland, New Zealand, Finland, France, Norway, Edinburgh, Lathi, US...

It felt a bit odd attending my first Fringe show in my pajamas.  Usually, I’m all dressed up, glass in hand, chatting away to my newly met neighbor as the lights go down.  Not tonight. 

Instead, what I got was a ‘live’ zoom recording of her show, done as an interactive ‘workshop’.  It reminded me of those ‘garage’ performances bands tried to do during lockdown in 2020.  It sort of worked.  But nobody’s fooling anyone – this is not actually theatre.  It’s all online.  So, get used to it.  This is how we roll with covid.  It’s like that online gambling advert on the telly, you call the shots.  Watch when and where, how you like and with who you like.  You can even get crumbs in the duvet, no one will know.  Now on with the show.   

Rummel opens with ‘Ne me quitte pas’ written by Jaques Brel.  A soft, melancholic love song begging the listen to remain – “Let me be your shadow/ Don’t leave me…”  Perhaps a request for her online audience to settle in.  Accompanied only by piano, it’s a simple start but a taste of her usual performance.  It’s something we see a lot of in Wellington Fringe shows, but usually in person. 

There are interactions with her online audience and she tells stories of French culture.  Like a visit to clients that starts off as a 10-minute visit and morphs into a multi hour 7 course meal.  “After seven hours we left this place, and we are friends ever since!  That’s what makes life so special.”

Another tale is about a Gendarme holding up traffic for a snail crossing the road – ‘l'escargot est roi’

‘Milord’ from the ‘Little Sparrow’ aka Edith Piaf comes from a recording done in a jazz bar in Reykjavík and you can hear the murmur of the audience, their whooping and clapping.  I guess this adds a bit of live flavour. 

She asks her online audience about their aspirations and plans for the future.  They share.  Two of the have plays and musicals that need to be staged once they get out of lockdown.  Rummel notes that these are big things.  Her next song is the opposite, ‘Je veux’ is about the little things.  It’s hilarious, with a kazoo accompaniment, she sings ‘I need your love, joy, humour/ I prefer a hand on the heart…”  This is a song I didn’t know but I really enjoined bon vivant of the performance. 

She also shares a short video she’s made about ‘The Bridge of Avignon’;teaches her audience a song from the 18th Century, which we know as ‘Frère Jacques’.  They join in, very badly, partially due to lagging. Partially due to bad singing.  We then get another video, this time with puppets, which was a bit naff.  Like an international Muppet delegation.  Still, it made me giggle.

She tells stories about shopping and the French love of art, fashion and design.  We get another video with the Muppets, this time about art.  This is follows by another Piaf song about a woman who falls in love with a musician (‘L’Accordeoniste’). 

She also does a the original of ‘My Way’.  Apparently, David Bowie was the first person to write English lyrics to the original tune of what eventually became the global hit.  But it was French man Claude Francois, a big name in his native France, who wrote and performed the original song called ‘Comme d'habitude’ ('As Usual).

Rummel is clearly fluent in French and sings like a native.  She’s studied the nuances and subtleties of each chanson and this clearly comes through.  A master class is French cabaret.  

“What we can’t say.  And what we can’t be quiet.  The music is expressing.’ – Victor Hugo

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