Edith Piaf is one of those stars whose story is as big as their talent: from her tough childhood to vast success, from her endless love affairs to her struggle with drink and drugs, from the plane crash that killed her lover to the car crashes that nearly killed her, there’s plenty of material. And hey, the songs ain’t bad either…
Happily, given that this is an hour-long Fringe show, writer/performer Michaela Burger acknowledges the weight of material straight up. An Australian cabaret artist, she talks us through Piaf’s life deftly, without getting bogged down or overly reverential – Piaf’s whole childhood growing up in a brothel is dealt with in a breathless one-minute rhyming ditty. What we do get are the songs and the love affairs, both of which Burger delivers with a twinkle in her eye.
Standing barely an inch taller than the 'Little Sparrow' at 4’11”, Burger also impersonates her indomitable idol, all thick French accent, haughty mouth curls and lascivious eyes. And, most importantly, she nails Piaf’s stonking back catalogue: if her voice is softer than Piaf's, she still evokes her low smokiness, the rolling Rs, the sudden sharp French twang. Berger is accompanied on the guitar by Greg Wain, but their simple approach never feels lacking.
For Piaf fans, it’s a treat to hear these classic numbers live, in such an affectionate performance; for those who barely know her beyond ‘Non, Je ne regrette rien’, Exposing Edith is an efficient, sprightly introduction to an astonishing woman and her music.