Viva La Franglaise
7:00pm, Sat 12 Feb 2011
Nikki Aitken and Matthew Carey take to the stage almost unexpectedly; it’s still daylight, the dropping of the house lights didn’t alert anyone, and the welcoming applause is late and accompanied with surprised murmurs. Nikki welcomes the crowd warmly and, keyed off by Carey’s piano, drops into a harsh English accent and starts telling Carol the Seamstress’ tale of woe.
The opening song is a cracker, with the ominous presentation of roses as a reminder of domestic abuse; Carol flees the relationship in London, heads to Brighton, and then decides to try and make a new start in France. Her first evening in Nice leads to her sitting alone in a restaurant, being propositioned by multiple men; Aitken’s accents are great, and switching between multiple voices in song doesn’t faze her one bit. In conversation with one of the men, she spins a web of lies, inadvertently adopting the identity of a French Ambassador’s wife, Constantine.
From there, things spiral out of control; Constantine becomes the social darling of the region, sets up her own fashion label, and has her own runway show… until she is found out and very publicly arrested. All is not lost, though, and there’s a romantic and happy ending.
It’s a pretty impressive crowd in The Spiegeltent for this one-off show by local regular Nikki Aitken; and she has a lot of fun with it, engaging the audience in some moments that almost felt pantomimic. Matthew Carey’s piano and (very) occasional singing do the job, and Nikki’s singing is solid – but for me the highlight was the delivery of the original songs. The transitions from spoken-word dialog into song appeared to be almost effortless; it made the performance feel like a considered whole, rather than just a collection of songs bolted around a flimsy framework.
Sure, it’s not the most in-depth story, nor the most compelling performance; but Viva La Franglaise was certainly entertaining enough.