Posts Tagged ‘Caroline Nin


Caroline Nin

Hymne A Piaf

The J Theatre



By popular demand, French Chanteuse, Caroline Nin, returned to Noosa for one night only, as part of The Noosa Longweekend. And what an exquisite night it was. On a chilly Monday night, in the too-spacious theatre (it felt as if we should have been in a Berlin Cafe) I was transported. The house lights went down and in semi-darkness, a slim, shapely silhouette appeared at the edge of the stage and almost – not quite – sauntered past the musicians, in her six inch black peep-toe pumps, to centre stage and stood. Just stood. And in half a moment had commanded our attention, our admiration and our utmost devotion. Then she began to speak. Underscored and then ably accompanied by a talented, disciplined Sydney pair, Tom O’Halloran (keys) and Jonathan Zwartz (contrabass), Ms Nin presented as the epitome of French style and grace…and of angst, passion, joy, despair and love (above all, love). I love that the French don’t just fall in love. They fall madly in love, passionately in love and then, invariably, they destroy their lover and go on loving them and demand torrid love in return. I get it. I do. It’s just that the French get it better.


The audience was largely of a certain age and they knew the original versions of the songs. They did! The woman next to me couldn’t help but hum them. I thought of my mum, who has just returned from another five weeks tripping around Europe and I wondered, had she been sitting next to me, rather than the slightly distracting, somehow disarmingly lovely Humming Woman, would Mum have even felt like she’d left? The atmosphere set wholly and solely by Ms Nin, makes me think not. This audience was older, quite discerning; like Mum, they had been to Europe and shared decent coffee and croissants and cigarettes, back in the day, at tiny tables in dimly lit, crowded (or empty) cafes. Oh, yes. They knew Piaf and they recognised all her usual haunts), but had you been too young or too happy to have ever come across the songs of Edith Piaf, you would not have appreciated the emotion, the skill, the structure and delivery of this special show any less.


By delivering lyrics in English, with strong gesture to match the meaning and then allowing each song to melt into French, retaining the same strong gesture in the same moments, Ms Nin opened up her world (Piaf’s world) and welcomed her audience, drawing them into that story (Piaf’s story). Not since Bernadette Peters at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival in 2009, have I seen such a consummate performer, nor an audience so enraptured by a performer’s…stillness. In Nin’s stillness, there is a volcano about ready to erupt inside and it’s a place we all recognise and only rarely allow ourselves to visit. Why? Because it’s ugly. It’s life…sometimes. It’s a dark, ugly place, not always pretty, or in perfect pitch or even in a major key.


The darker moments, both in song and in patter, were spectacularly dark, prompting from some members of the audience, audible sighs and gasps and at one stage, from somewhere in the space, a barely breathed “wow”. Nin spoke about the death of the man Piaf had loved more than any other, boxing champion, Marcel Cerdan, who boarded a plane for the first time in his life to hear Piaf sing in New York, a song she had written for him. The plane crashed, he died and Piaf went on with the show that night and sang the song. It was If You Love Me.


Perfectly balanced by moments of pure joy (within what are essentially tragic love stories, such as L’accordeoniste and Mon Legionnaire) from the story of Piaf’s earlier days and from Nin herself, this was a performance that truly seduced the audience and didn’t release us until the very end. As we neared the end, we got audience favourite, La vie en rose. And the end, of course, was that most famous work, written by Charles Dumont; Non, je ne regrette rien, which, contrary to popular belief, Piaf did not sing throughout her career but just for 2 years before her death. Piaf died in 1963 at the age of 47.


Caroline Nin’s tribute to “the little sparrow” took us with her, on Piaf’s passionate, turbulent life journey and delivered effortlessly, an emotion filled, incredibly sophisticated performance that was nothing short of magnificent. Magnifique.




The National One-Act Play Festival: final results

I saw the one-act plays again, the three best of the 87 plays entered into the National One-Act Playwriting Competition, and I enjoyed them so much more this time! Well, I wouldn’t say that Bruce Olive’s The Knock on the Door can really be “enjoyed” but I certainly appreciated it more the second time, as opposed to being quite unaffected by it on only the second night of the season.

The atmosphere at Noosa Arts Theatre was celebratory from the outset. And why wouldn’t it be? As Paul Ritchie, the current president of Noosa Arts said in his speech to launch the official proceedings, the general standard of plays has, again this year, improved. Two of the three playwrights were present (Mark Langham was on stage somewhere, being “an actor more than a writer.” His wife was there in his absence) and the founding members’ daughters and sisters, sponsors and audience members were all in fine form.

Brisbane based actor and director, Karen Crone, was present in the Adjudicator’s seat. She was able to provide some valuable feedback to the artists involved. I hope to see next year, a little more time during proceedings, afforded to the adjudicator. The majority of audience members are interested to hear the comments that come from an experienced professional theatre practitioner and any positive feedback is invaluable for the playwrights, performers and directors involved. There are artists who absorb positive and constructive criticism like sponges. Some of those artists will even consider the advice and apply it to their upcoming work, continuing to raise standards.

While we’re on the subject of comments and positive feedback, I attended at the theatre on Sunday, Michael Futcher’s Playwriting Master Class. Three of the fifteen playwrights present had entered scripts into the competition this year and didn’t appear to understand exactly what it was that was missing, or unsuitable or unappealing or whatever about their script. I know some feedback from the Reading Panel is provided and I would like to see an extension of this, perhaps in the form of several readings and rehearsed readings with actors, directors and other playwrights, establishing more of a workshop approach to the process. Perhaps, if this sort of creative collaborative process is not allowed in the lead up, this could take place in the weeks following the competition’s conclusion. I firmly believe that one cannot get better at the things one does without observing what else is out there and paying some attention to the response from audiences, adjudicators and critics. You may not agree with one person’s perspective, however; if the general feedback is starting to sound the same, you should know that you might have something to work on.

Seeing the plays again on Saturday, I felt that either some major work had been done or that the actors had simply committed and settled into their roles. I was more convinced by the relationship in the first play, Jenny Bullimore’s Star Crossed and I enjoyed Mark Langham’s Nothing again but without the number of beers being consumed being an issue (they’d halved the consumption. It made much more sense) and I actually felt – strongly – for the mothers in The Knock on the Door. It’s a shame we are sometimes only ready for the season towards the end of the season, isn’t it?


Best Play: NOTHING By Mark Langham

NOTHING By Mark Langham









Runner Up: THE KNOCK ON THE DOOR By Bruce Olive











Best Director: LIZA PARK

Karen Crone & Liza Park














Karen Crone & Frank Wilkie













Best Actress: JENNI MCCAUL

Karen Crone & Jenni McCaul













Adjudicator’s (Commendation) Awards: REBECCA PLINT  & MICHAEL PARLATO

Congratulations to all playwrights, directors, actors and the team at Noosa Arts Theatre for a fantastic One-Act Play Festival in 2011. Meanwhile, the Noosa Longweekend continues. This week, I’ll be enjoying Caroline Nin’s Hymne A Piaf, the premiere of David Williamson & Mohamed Khadra’s At Any Cost?, Supper Club with Mrs Bang! (aka Sheridan Harbridge), Oscar Theatre Company’s [title of show] and Sandra Bates’ Directing Master Class. Bring it on!