It’s tonight (27 July 2018)! Hymn to Love, Elizabeth Mansfield’s brilliant homage to Edith Piaf, officially opens at London’s Jermyn Street Theatre following success at Keswick’s Theatre by the Lake and on tour. Test your Piaf knowledge with our timeline and featured song list 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.
Commenting on why he wanted to bring the show to Jermyn Street, artistic director Tom Littler said:
“Edith Piaf is surely one of the greatest artist-entertainers of the last century, and in Steve Trafford’s clean, pure translations, and Elizabeth Mansfield’s extraordinary performance, she seems to live again in a new way.”
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.
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!
A timeline of tragic love
1915 – Piaf is born Edith Giovanna Gassion in Belleville, Paris. Her father is a street acrobat and her mother a café singer, who abandons her at birth.
1918 – Back from World War I, her father takes her to live in a brothel where his mother is cook. From age 3 to 7, Piaf is blind due to keratitis.
1929 – Edith joins her father performing on the streets and first sings in public.
1933 – Edith gives birth to her only child, a daughter, Marcelle, who dies aged two.
1935 – Louis Leplée, a distinguished nightclub owner, discovers Piaf street singing. He promotes her as ‘La mome Piaf’ (the little sparrow); Edith was only 4’ 8” tall.
1936 – Leplée is murdered. Piaf is accused as an accessory, but acquitted. Raymond Asso becomes her lover, teacher and mentor, commissioning Marguerite Monnot to write new songs for Piaf about her life on the streets.
1944 – Piaf appears at the Moulin Rouge with Yves Montand.
1949 – Marcel Cerdan, world boxing champion and love of Piaf’s life, dies in a plane crash in October 1949 while flying from Paris to New York to see her. Piaf never recovers from this tragedy.
1950 – Piaf helps launch Charles Aznavour’s career, taking him on tour to the US.
1951 – Piaf and Aznavour are seriously injured in a car crash. Two more near-fatal crashes follow. Here begins Piaf’s serious addiction to both morphine and alcohol.
1952 – Piaf marries Jacques Pills, with Marlene Dietrich at her side. They divorce in 1957.
1959 – Piaf returns to the US once more before commencing her famous ‘suicide tour’ in France, later that year.
1960 – Piaf records ‘Je Ne Regrette Rien’, performing it to ecstatic audiences at the Olympia in Paris.
1962 – Piaf weds Théo Sarapo, a Greek hairdresser-turned-singer 20 years her junior. She takes him on tour with her.
1963 – Years of alcohol and drug abuse have taken their toll. Piaf undergoes a series of major surgeries. Her weight falls to 30kg (66 pounds). She dies of liver cancer, aged 48, at her villa on the French Riviera, Théo at her side. She was
Told through song
In Hymn to Love, Elizabeth Mansfield tells Piaf’s story interspersed with performances of 14 of The Little Sparrow’s greatest songs, all with English lyrics by Steve Trafford and piano arrangements by Patrick Bridgman. Be sure to listen out for:
- La Ville Inconnue
- Comme Moi
- Padam Padam
- Bravo Pour Le Clown
- Mon Légionnaire
- La Foule
- La Belle Histoire D’amour
- La Vie En Rose
- La Goualante Du Pauvre Jean
- Hymne A L’amour
- C’est À Hambourg
- Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien