Nottingham Playhouse’s Piaf on demand can’t cover up the deficiencies in Pam Gems’ play but it does offer a soaring leading turn from Jenna Russell
“I’m trying to be a f*cking lady”
It was a tricky one, trying to decide whether to trek to Nottingham to their production of Piaf. In all brutal honesty, Pam Gems’ play isn’t by any means a classic but with the part of Édith Piaf, it has created a created a role that offer up spectacular results in the right hands. Elena Roger near blew the roof off the Donmar back in 2008, Frances Ruffelle did well in Leicester in 2013 and I was sure Jenna Russell would do the same. I just didn’t really want to see the play again.
Fortunately, the return of Piaf on demand meant that I got to experience Adam Penford’s production and I’d argue that I probably made the right decision. Jenna Russell is indeed spectacular as la môme piaf and delivers exactly the kind of barnstorming vocal performance that you’d expect from her. But the world around Piaf is far too thinly sketched to make the requisite impact, despite sterling work from Sally Ann Triplett’s Toine and Laura Pitt-Pulford’s Marlene Dietrich.
Photos: Marc Brenner