**** "a superb and heart-warming show"
(Rob Carnegie - Fringe Review)
**** (Remote Goat)
I had no idea who Jacques Brel was until 2010. Post-graduation, I was surrounding myself with the world of musical theatre, dreaming of being on stage in any number of the modern shows that we celebrate so much. It was at an audition, upstairs at a pub on the outskirts of Southport, that I first heard his name mentioned. The years since have been a slow realisation not only of the genius that is Jacques Brel, but of how much influence he has had over music and musicians to this day.
In the UK, when it comes to Brel, at best we have the wrong end of the stick. At worst we neglect an incredible artist. Say his name to the person on the street and you will almost certainly get a blank look, but if you talk of the musical legends he has inspired over the years, you wonder why this is the case.
Born in Belgium in 1929, Jacques Brel became the “voice of Paris” in the 1950’s/60’s creating many a musical masterpiece that inspired the likes of Frank Sinatra, Nina Simone, Leonard Cohen, Neil Diamond, Scott Walker, David Bowie, Nirvana, the list goes on. Even if people have heard of the name, its more than likely that this is through someone else’s adaptions of his work (“Seasons in the Sun”, “If You Go Away”) or through the musical “Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris”, that has a brief revival every now and again. There is very little focus on the man himself and his original works. Do this and there are so many treasures to be found.
These treasures are the inspiration for “A Life a Thousand Times”.
The aim of the musical is not to parody or provide a characterisation of the great man. I’d argue anyone trying to do that, was destined to fail. The aim is to tell people about Jacques’ life, through his words (and those of his daughter) along with many of his wonderful songs. Some of these are performed in the original French, some have been freshly translated into English, others you may have heard before. But in each case we have tried to present a version as close to the original as we can. There is something for everyone, whether you know Brel or not – and hopefully after seeing the show, you will want to know more.
Nominated for Best Show - Buxton Fringe, 2015
Written by Simon Pennicott