Rehearsals have begun for a thrilling theatrical tribute to one of France's most successful singers of all time, Édith Piaf. With timeless, instantly recognisable melodies that span three decades of a remarkable career, audiences can look forward to the extraordinary talent of Olivier Award-nominated actress, Elizabeth Mansfield and TBTL favourite Patrick Bridgman, as they join forces in Hymn to Love – Homage to Piaf
, Theatre by the Lake's first show to open the Spring Season.
The performance revolves around one particular incident in the singer's career; the death of her lover, Marcel Cerdan. Killed in a plane crash on his way to watch her sing, she heard the news of his death whilst rehearsing for the show, but went on stage anyway, dedicating her performance to him. The emotionally charged drama with electrifying singing from Mansfield, interweaves fifteen of her songs exploring personal experiences of love, loss and longing.
Elizabeth Mansfield has performed many leading roles in UK regional theatres and London's West End and takes on the starring role of Piaf. She co-devised the show with Annie Castledine and husband Steve Trafford, who wrote the play and translated the songs from the French. She says, "It's fantastic to be back in Keswick and to be revisiting this challenging role which I last performed in London at The Drill Hall. There have been many biographical pieces written about Piaf, but Hymn to Love
offers audiences something new and insightful and I'm hugely looking forward to sharing Piaf's extraordinary repertoire! My fellow performer playing the role of The Pianist is Patrick Bridgman, and it is lovely to be working with him for the first time here in Keswick at the UK's most beautifully located theatre”.
Patrick Bridgman, who lives in Cockermouth, is returning for his fifteenth show at the theatre and was also part of its inaugural season in 1999. He says, "I've been very fortunate in terms of the variety of shows I've worked on over the years here. There's always something to learn and I'm particularly pleased to be returning at this point in the theatre's history as it's my first production since Conrad Lynch took directorship. It's lovely to have the combination of old friends and new ideas.”
He was drawn to working on the production after he heard about Mansfield's work with two acclaimed companies, Red Ladder and Ensemble, and was also eager to work with director Damian Cruden at York Theatre Royal. Asked how he was finding the rehearsals he said, "It's been hugely enjoyable! The atmosphere is very relaxed. Liz is tremendous and gives it everything. Damian draws out lots of rich detail in Piaf's story and we're helped along by sound designer, Yvonne Gilbert whose input is absolutely integral.”
A consummate musician as well as actor, Patrick trained at Chetham's School of Music and St. Anne's College, Oxford. He described the musical journey as, "A great discovery. I love J'attendrai
by a contemporary of Piaf's, Rina Ketty, as well as songs by French composers such as Fauré, Chausson and Poulenc – whose songs aren't very different from a Piaf classic like Mon Legionnaire
, composed by Marguerite Monnot.
Steve Trafford's script is marvellous at giving a sensual presence to Piaf's memories, you really get a feel for her life, yet there's also a forbidding quality. The power of the voice is utilised by her as both armour and a sharp weapon. In rehearsal we keep coming back to this as being the heart and soul of her life, in effect a refuge from all the tragedy and an outlet for it.”
Following its two and a half week run in Theatre by the Lake's Studio in Keswick, the show will go on the road, visiting halls and community centres across Cumbria, as well as transferring to York Theatre Royal and finally to London's Jermyn Street Theatre. The show is co-produced by Theatre by the Lake and York Theatre Royal, in association with Ensemble, and directed by Damian Cruden, York Theatre Royal's Artistic Director.
Hymn to Love – Homage to Piaf
runs at Theatre by the Lake from Fri 23 March until Tue 10 April. For more information on the production as well as show deals in which Hymn to Love
features, visit theatrebythelake.com
. To book call Box Office on 017687 74411.