Today I wanted to share a bit more in depth my feelings and thoughts about my participation in Piaf Remembered at the Edinburgh Festival, why it's been so important to me to be a part of it, and also explain to you the journey of how it all happened.
How it all started was that multi instrumentalist Katy Jungmann and actor/director Gary Merry had thought of this idea of a Piaf Show, and had initially found another singer to play the role of Piaf..but at the last minute she couldn't do it, so they turned to me as pianist Joe Bickerstaff got a recommendation from a fellow musician. This was around April this year.
It was sort of destiny as I had thought of having a Piaf show myself for a while, but I was looking for something more than just singing songs and talking in between the numbers, as I've done this type of gigs for many years, and I wanted something a bit different, with more substance and depth. Since I had been to Edinburgh a couple of years ago just to observe and enjoy the shows, I also thought it might be a good thing for me to be part of it at some point...And here they arrived with a proper fictional story about this little boy becoming a fan of Piaf! I was so excited to finally be in a proper musical play. Playing the role of Piaf, or at least a representation of her in the memory of this little boy, was something really interesting and I knew it would take me to the next level as a performer.
The thing is that in London, when you make a living as a performer, it's rare to find gigs where people 'really' listen to your music... even if they appreciate the music in the background or sometimes sing along or dance, in most gigs in restaurants, hotels, wedding, etc we're really more 'background' music, or a way to add some romantic or energetic atmosphere. Which, don't get me wrong, I appreciate greatly, and is an amazing way to develop our skills as musicians, and even doing cabaret where I interact directly and closely with my audience, is something I really adore...so it's all contributed to make me who I am today as a performer.
But standing on a stage in front of a silent audience, who is clearly expecting to see a show and who really wants to listen to you, is actually something even scarier as all eyes are on you. I can name a few venues who organise this type of gigs in London, but it's really not the majority.
So here are all the reasons why I said yes to the project, and why performing in theaters is so appealing to me; it's also such a great feeling to work with a committed team as it's so easy to sometimes feel very lonely as an artist... for all the pride we can get feeling we do things 'all by ourselves', the truth is that we always need other people anyway in some way at some point, and we should always embrace this idea of community or as I like to call it 'family'...
So there we were, rehearsing every week, working hard on firstly originally 11 songs (we're now extending the show so there will be 17 songs), did the festival, got a 5 star review on the night of the premiere and it was just an amazing experience for a very first time! From living together in a flat, giving away flyers and promoting, to the audience's reaction, it was all loads of fun and a very encouraging start for the play.
Of course, some things can still be improved as we need to target the right size and format for the show and advertise well if we want to make it profitable in the long term. We had around 50 people in the audience each night (which is amazing for Edinburgh!) but were not sold out as we had a capacity of 150 seats, ( in comparison other Piaf shows sell out because they only have a 40 seat capacity -which is a massive difference!), and the more people are in a team the less money we make (let's be honest, I didn't make any money out of this! lol I even spent money in the end -for accomodation, etc) so it's just a bit of logistics for the future...we'll see where this adventure takes us and if it's sustainable financially.
But for me, it was firstly about the new experience of being in a play and being part of the Edinburgh craziness. We have plans for the future in London jazzclubs and other UK theatres, and have also been asked back in Edinburgh next year...we hope that you'll be part of our adventures!
A big thank you to everyone involved in the project, and bisous bisous!
More infos about Piaf Remembered
Link to our interview with The Southside Advertiser