1930’s Paris. A woman enters, an introduction is made and a story unfolds. The fictional character, Madame Bijou, the once renowned ‘Queen of the Scene,’ (Chrissie Shaw) now lives on the outskirts of Parisian society. Bijou weaves through the audience dressed in reminders of a richer time. Opulent strands of pearls and gaudy sparkling jewelry contrast with a tattered shawl. Her voice is passionate and unapologetic. Her distaste of the changing world around her grows. Life moves forward as she tries to adapt and survive. Tales of the Belle Époque, the mayhem of impending war, of priests and their prey unravel quickly. Love, loss, violence and pain seem to be the calling cards of the day. All the while, the backdrop of the ever-changing colourful world of Paris and its descent during the depression plays on our minds. And through it all, Madame Bijou not only survives but thrives. She uses the men who use her. Aided by the her confidant and keeper of secrets, the talented Alan Hicks,(on piano) this cabaret skillfully intertwines Bruant, Hollander, Weill, Lenoir and Satie. It is an evening of beautiful music and powerful storytelling.
For me, the show highlights the indignities women were forced to go through in that era. If you were a woman of little means, you had to use your wits in order to survive. Madame Bijou does this but there is a cost.
There is no doubt that Shaw is passionate about this story. She wrote it and is the main character of her cabaret. However, at times, particularly the opening sequence, the character seemed disconnected. Pauses between thoughts were disproportionately long and disengaging. There were also many time shifts throughout the show that could be confusing if you weren’t focused and piecing together the time frame. But these moment were few and far between.
Director: Susan Pilbeam Performer: Chrissie Shaw Pianist: Alan Hicks Design: Imogen Keen and Victoria Worley Lighting Design: Gillian Schwab Choreography: Liz Lea
Bijou – A Cabaret of Secrets and Seduction runs at the Depot Theatre until 27 August.
Lee Anderson – Theatre Now
BIJOU – A Cabaret of Secrets
17 – 27 August 2016
Written and performed by Chrissy Shaw
with Pianist Alan Hicks