In a Parisian café bar in 1932 we meet Bijou. She is one of the night people, captured in Brassai’s revealing photographs of depression-era Paris. Frayed at the edges, they recall the glory days of the Belle Epoque, the mad excitement of the 1920s, as they drink, sing and scratch for survival while the world moves inexorably towards another world war.
Once queen of the Demi-Monde, Bijou roves from bar to bar, holding mad court in her tattered finery, draped in fake jewellery. Over many glasses of wine, she reads palms, tells and sells saucy stories, sings snatches of songs and relives the adventures of her long-lost youth. But tonight she starts to unravel.
Past, present, truth and lies collide in a bizarre confusion of tragi-comedy, cabaret and bawdy revelations. The bar pianist plays Satie, Weill, Hollander, Bruant and more, triggering memories of Bijou’s haphazard past. Music from operetta, romance; political anthems, nursery rhymes, and dance from the waltz and Charleston to exotic Eastern interpretation form the framework of the night’s experience.
Performed by Chrissie Shaw, she relives the tragic life of fictional character Bijou. With Alan Hicks on the piano, this hour and a half long theatrical piece will have you both weeping and in stitches as one woman tumultuously unravels her life story. This sumptuous cabaret-style entertainment, paints a picture of a colourful life, giving a rare glimpse into the private and very sensual world of an ageing woman in Paris.
Shaw first saw a Brassai photograph of Madame Bijou at the National Gallery of Victoria six years ago and says “since then I have taken an engrossing journey through the streets and tunnels of Paris, its years of turmoil and triumph, a lot of French literature as well as much internet surfing.”
Bijou is an original work from Canberra-based performing artist, writer and producer Chrissie Shaw. Since 1991, Chrissie has produced seven original plays, in collaboration with other artists and producers. Works include About Face, Footprints on the Wind, Sweeter Fern – That’s Red!, Drumming on Water, The Keeper, Gran’s Bag, and Flotsam and Jetsam.
Director: Susan Pilbeam Performer: Chrissie Shaw Pianist: Alan Hicks Design: Imogen Keen and Victoria Worley Lighting Design: Gillian Schwab Choreography: Liz Lea
Bijou – a cabaret of secrets and seduction
La Mama Courthouse, 349 Drummond Street, Carlton
Season: 15 – 19 June 2016
Information and Bookings: www.lamama.com.au
Image: Chrissie Shaw as Bijou – photo by Sarah Nathan-Truesdale