Hymn to Love, Elizabeth Mansfield’s much-lauded tribute to Edith Piaf, transfers to London’s Jermyn Street Theatre this week after sell-out performances and an extended run at Theatre By The Lake and a northern tour. How much do you know about the man for whom Piaf sang her “Hymn to Love”? Gen up and hear the original below – and then get booking!
‘A compelling portrait’ (The Stage) of one of France’s most notable singers, Hymn to Love sees Olivier-nominated actress Elizabeth Mansfield reprise her performance as Edith Piaf (1915-1963) for a strictly limited London season at Jermyn Street Theatre from 25 July to 18 August 2018, with a press night on 27 July.
Hymn to Love centres on one particular incident in Piaf’s life, which came to express all of her loss and longing: 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.
Charting the incident and its effects through different times in her life, Hymn to Love interweaves performances of fifteen of Piaf’s most famous, instantly recognisable songs spanning a three-decade career, to create an emotionally charged and deeply moving piece of theatre. Mansfield co-devised the show, first seen in 1998, with husband Steve Trafford, who wrote the play and translated the songs into English, giving a rare chance to hear the passion and poetry of Piaf’s music.
Patrick Bridgman accompanies Mansfield onstage as the Pianist. A consummate musician, he trained at Chetham’s School of Music and St Anne’s College Oxford before going on pursue an acting career (often with a musical aspect), including frequent visits to Theatre by the Lake, Lancaster’s The Dukes, Bolton’s Octagon Theatre and Manchester Library Theatres, as well as numerous national and international tours.
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 runs from 25 July to 18 August 2018 at the Jermyn Street Theatre, 16b Jermyn Street, London SW1Y 6ST. Performances are Tuesdays to Saturdays at 7.30pm, with Saturday and Sunday matinees at 3.30pm. Tickets are priced £30 (concessions £20). CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE!
Who was Marcel Cerdan?
Despite a tragically short career, Marcel Cedan (1916-1949) is widely considered to be France’s greatest ever boxer. Born in French Algeria, he began boxing in Morocco in 1934 and established an early reputation with a 47-match winning streak. During the Second World War, he fought for the American Allied forces and, after the war, went on to win first the French and then the European middleweight titles. In September 1948, he secured the World Middleweight Champion title after knocking out American fighter Tony Zale in the 12th round in a match held in New Jersey.
Though Cerdan was married with three children, Cerdan began a passionate affair with Edith Piaf in the summer of 1948. The pair were devoted to one another and she penned what became one of her most enduring songs “Hymne a l’amour” (often translated into English as “If You Love Me”) for him.
Cerdan lost his world title to Jake LaMotta when he dislocated his shoulder during their match. He was at training camp, preparing for a rematch, when he took a break to fly to New York to see Piaf in concert. His plane crashed in the Azores, killing Cerdan, French violinist Ginette Neveu and 35 other passengers plus 11 crew onboard. Cerdan was 33.