Review: Brel at Auckland Town Hall

BRIDGET JONES
Last updated 13:44 03/11/2012
Brel
Supplied
LIFE IN SONG: Big names belt out a tune for Silo Theatre production Brel.

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Who the hell is Jacques Brel? It's almost a question that shouldn't be asked aloud when talking about a production bearing his name, but it was one doing the rounds after the stunning performances in Brel last night.

It turns out Brel was a poet, an escapist, a realist, a heart-breaker and himself heartbroken. He is a man you can't help but have a sudden desperation to know more about after this, the final major Silo Theatre production of the year.

The Belgian musician's songs form the material for this unique, cabaret noir-style show. No dialogue, no dancing, just singing and storytelling.

But don't let that put you off - this is theatre nonetheless, just with a rock and roll twist.

The cast - theatre regulars Tama Waipara and Jennifer Ward-Lealand and Top 40 stars Jon Toogood and Julia Deans - turn song into script, jamming every word full of emotion and meaning.

On a stage set like a 1960s cabaret bar, full of chaise-lounges, floor lamps and a drinks trolley, the four musicians weaved their way around the songs and each other, their voices and stage presence working wonderfully together, like a band that have been together for years.

Waipara brought a delightfully likable humour to Brel's lighter songs (and a rather impressive version of Ces Gens-La), while Ward-Lealand proved just how versatile she is - from the beautiful My Childhood to the viciously sad Funeral Tango.

But the unknown quantity in the theatre setting was Deans and Toogood. Turns out, they can foot it with the best of them.

Toogood showed how true a performer he is, shimmying his way around the stage in signature style, all the while making the audience laugh (his Girls and Dogs duet with Waipara is one of the sweetest moments), or losing his mind in the Nick Cave-esque Amsterdam, which closes the first act. 

But it was Deans who shone the brightest. Her ability to be light and funny on Timid Frieda through to the heart-achingly beautiful Song for Old Lovers was astounding.

Her voice has the ability to both make your heart ache and soar in equal measures and her performance has charming nuances throughout.

And the connect she and Toogood have in the rock world - thanks to their band The Adults - shone during their passionate rendition of Alone.

Brel is unexpected. It's a show you don't envisage, with material you want to learn more about when it's all over. But most of all it is a show with performances make you feel, all without a scripted word.

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BREL

WHEN: Until November 24

WHERE: Concert Chamber, Auckland Town Hall

- Auckland Now

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