Christine Bovill returns to the Fringe with her Parisian review show, celebrating her favourite French songs of the 20th Century. This is no simple cover music recital or karaoke lineup, though. Supported by accomplished pianist, Michael Roulston, Christine Bovill’s Paris is a mesmerising hour of delightful storytelling and blissful song.
Performed this year in the perfectly atmospheric setting of the New Town Theatre, Bovill’s show transports us to a Parisian jazz club after just one verse. Her note-perfect voice lilts us from frivolity and fun in La Foule to passion in Dans Le Porte D’Amsterdam before stirring us beautifully with the incredibly moving Fils De, dedicated to children escaping war-torn homes. Of course Bovill cannot avoid returning to the triumphant Edith Piaf finale, Je Ne Regrette Rien, that has garnered so much international recognition for her (she performs her award-winning Piaf homage show for two nights only at this year’s Fringe).
But understanding the French language has nothing to do with the joy of this show. Several of the songs are either partly sung in English or will be recognisable to the audience from famous English versions we know. Moreover, though, Bovill has an uncanny gift for connecting with the audience and translating the heart of each song through her voice. She shows us that we don’t need to interpret the lyrics on an intellectual level but can instead connect with the songs on an emotional level through sound – just like she first did as a teenager in Glasgow, she recounts.
Each song is prefaced with an anecdote or historical note and even these introductions are captivating. Bovill’s speaking voice is husky and inviting, sharing not only the stories of the songwriters and singers she is celebrating – Jacques Brel, Charles Trenet, Barbara, Juliet Greco, Charles Aznavour – but also personal memories and attachments to the music. She is quick-witted and funny and encourages us to laugh and sing with her as if we are all old friends.
Forget the notion that this is a performance for lovers of French song. Bovill has the talent of capturing anyone and brightening our night with her voice. C’est sublime.