On February 28, 2010, the curtain fell on the first version of Piaf, by Pam Gems, directed by the British Jamie Lloyd. By then she was already leaving an indelible mark on the path of commercial theater. Its producers were intrepid in having assumed the risk of bringing to the country the same staging of a theatrical epicenter of excellence like London, with its same protagonist, who was neither popular nor on television. Tickets for more than a month of performances are already sold out today, but let’s remember that at that time it was also very difficult to get good places during the eight months of performances. In that sense, the Liceo historically had the greatest advance ticket sales events (a modality not so common in the Buenos Aires scene), both with Piaf and Salsa Criolla., of the great Enrique Pinti. Back in 2010, you had to buy tickets at least two weeks in advance and every day a crowd would gather in lines, in the morning, in front of its box office, with spectators eager for emotion to the surface.
Yes, we can clearly say that Piaf is another Buenos Aires theatrical phenomenon. In no other place where this work was presented (originally premiered in 1978, in London) was it as successful as its performances in Buenos Aires. Because let us remember that Rubens Correa also staged the first Buenos Aires production, between 1983 and 1986, at the Lorange Theater (today Apolo), with a cast led by Virginia Lago, who also staged one of her consecrating theatrical works there (how can we also forget that shocking performance by Susana Ortiz, as her friend Toine).
The creator of this much more musical new look at Gems’ work is Jamie Lloyd, who previously premiered it at London’s Donmare Warehouse, also with Elena Roger. That is to say, before exciting us, she did it with the English, who gave him the precious Olivier award. She is accompanied on stage by Julia Calvo, Diego Jaraz, Rodrigo Pedreira, Natalia Cociuffo, Ángel Hernández, Federico Llambí, Eduardo Paglieri, Iván Espeche, Nacho Pérez Cortés, Romina Groppo, Martín Andrada and Gustavo Guzmán. With the musical direction of Carlos Britez, the general production of Mariana Correa and the stage replacement of Edgardo Millán.
Through the beginning of her montage, the creator introduces the viewer to the 1930s, where a single set design is enough to make him feel in a Parisian suburb, in a certain stage of that city, a boxing stadium or in some club. The sleaze of her gaze accompanies the course of this talented woman whom life slapped early and even suffered deadly blows in full splendor. Through this sordid and minimalist montage, Lloyd creates “photos”, stamps, images that, with the right and necessary lighting, cold, are nourished by backlights that are almost colorless. There, between the gloom and the smoke, beautifully designed visual scenes are reproduced, interrupted with guillotine cuts that do not give the viewer the opportunity to applaud but to continue wrapped in that emotional spell.
But without Elena Roger there is no Piaf. The performer recreates it through a composition that rides her on a roller coaster of emotions and psychic states. She embodies it from a hyperrealistic work that she modifies, shakes and moves. But, in addition, she shudders and manages to shudder in songs like “Non, je ne regrette rien” and “La vie en rose”. She makes one miss some unnecessarily long scenes or some performance gap in the ensemble. Elena Roger perfectly understands the creature that inhabits her for almost two hours, exposes it, shares it and delivers it. And that makes it memorable.
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