Peter Straker’s Brel

Assembly Checkpoint

From 01 August 2013 to 26 August 2013

Rating: *****

Review by David Chadderton

I'd seen some great reviews for Peter Straker's cabaret shows in past Fringes, but the only thing I'd ever seen him in was the TV series Connie in the mid-'80s, so I thought it was time to catch up with his show.

Straker pays tribute to the work of Jacques Brel and, to some extent, to his life, but this isn't a biographical piece; it is all about the music. After an overture, a film clip of Brel talking on a big screen and the song "Brussels", Straker tells us, "I'm not Jacques Brel, but if I were, just for an hour, what would I dream?".

What follows is a sequence of anecdotes about the singer's life with appropriate songs attached to them and some of Brel's uniquely French philosophy from his own lips in film clips. It's all perfectly and smoothly integrated together.

The track listing is nicely varied in tone and subject matter, inevitably including the most famous "Jacky" plus "Amsterdam", "Madame", "Next", "If You Go Away" and many more.

These songs require a big, theatrical interpretation to get the most out of them, and that's exactly what they get from Straker's energetic performance that could fill a room twice this size. It's exciting, invigorating and life-affirming.

I didn't buy a programme (a pound for a programme on the Fringe?) but I did buy a CD coming out so I could take a little piece of this show with me.