Peter Straker has a music and theatre career spanning over five decades and this lifetime of experience in delivering one hell of a performance is evident throughout this one hour long tribute to Belgian singer-songwriter Jacques Brel.
Edinburgh Fringe: Peter Straker’s Brel – Assembly Hall
Writer: Kevin Short
Director: Kevin Short
Reviewer: Stephanie Walls
During the show Straker celebrates a small portion of Brel’s exquisite and well-loved back catalogue with a delicate narrative cleverly linking each song together. Straker has chosen to perform the songs in English, an interesting choice as Brel mostly only recorded his songs in French. However, the hard hitting lyrics of songs such as ‘Next’ and ‘Funeral Tango’ and the theatrics of ‘Amsterdam’ and ‘Madame’ translate perfectly and don’t lose any of their impact. If anything, choosing to perform the songs in English makes the work of this brilliant, but largely unknown to English audiences, songwriter more accessible. Straker never claims to be ‘playing the part’ of Brel and indeed he informs us at the start “I am not Jacques Brel…” and later adds “I just like singing his songs” but the latter is clearly evident from the outset.
Straker is a great showman and each song is injected with so much passion and pure theatricality that he is the perfect performer to showcase these songs to both fans of Brel and those new to his work. Although it could be argued Straker’s genuine love of Brel’s work and his magnificent singing voice could hold this show together without the need for props, costumes and projections they do work effectively in bringing the show together as a whole.
For an evening that leaves you smiling, safe in the knowledge you’ve just witnessed a performer who seriously knows how to put on a show ‘Peter Straker’s Brel’ is the perfect combination of showmanship, great music and originality. This is by no means a definitive biographical piece about the life of Jacques Brel but it is a delightful hour of entertainment by a tremendously talented and passionate vocalist that will brighten up your Edinburgh Fringe!
Runs until 26th August