John Waters presents the Chansons de Jacques Brel this Adelaide Fringe

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John Waters, Australian singer and actor, will present Chansons de Jacques Brel at Adelaide Fringe 2022. You no doubt known John Waters for his work on screen, on stage and for his music. But did you know that he sings in French and speaks it too? And that he is a big fan of Jacques Brel? Read our interview with John Waters to find out everything you need to know!

Chansons de Jacques Brel - John Waters

John, you’re presenting your show Chansons de Jacques Brel at Adelaide Fringe 2022. I read that you first discovered Jacques Brel’s muic while travelling in Belgium during your adolescence. Is that correct?

It’s true that I discovered the music of Brel in Belgium. I was 17 and hitch-hiking during my holidays.


Describe for us the moment that you heard the song. Do you remember whic Brel song was the first you heard?

It was in Ostende and I heard a busker singing “Le plat pays”. I was instantly addicted. I had vaguely heard of Jacques Brel, but from that moment I wanted to look for his songs everywhere.


What do you appreciate about Brel’s music?

I find that all of his songs have a great honesty. He sings about what it means to be human.


You presented the Brel show at Adelaide Cabaret Festival 12 year ago (in 2000 I think) as well as on an Australian tour at the time. You also recorded an album of Brel songs. Are these the same songs that you will sing in this show? Is it the same show that you will present at Adelaide Fringe ?

I’ve already sung these songs in Australia, but this time I will be accompanied by a simpler orchestra – more intimite. There will be me (for some songs on guitar), Stewart D’Arrietta on the piano, Michael Kluger on the accordion and Tony Mitchell on bass. It’s a group of musicians who I’ve been close with for many years.


Is this concert a sort of homage to Jacques Brel?

Every time we sing a Brel song it’s an ‘homage’. They are his thoughts, his feelings. We borrow them from time to time.  


What is your favourite Brel song?

I don’t have a favourite song. You never choose a favourite child!


Were you able to ever see Jacques Brel in concert during his lifetime?

I’m sad to have never seen a Brel concert live. But there is a DVD of his last show at l’Olympia which gives you an experience which is as close as possible. 


We’re doing this interview in French (I’ve translated it back to English). Since when and how did you come to speak French?

I’ve spent a lot of time in France in my life, and as a result I speak French. These days, I don’t speak as fluently as I used to until I am in France for a week or two. Writing is easier because you can take the time to think!


What are the challenges of singing in French when it’s not your first language?

Singing in French in Australia doesn’t present any problem for me, but it does for the non-francophone audience. That’s why I tell a little story before starting each song. I do my best to explain generally what each song is about. I find that that’s enough. There are always words or phrases that have no meaning to the auditorium but the music and the passionate delivery speak volumes.


You’re well known in Australia on screen and on stage for theatre and also for music. Do you have a first love among them?

To be honest, my work on screen is something different, but when I find myself on stage, I know that I want to sing and perform. When I do that, I really feel “at home”.


Will the Chansons de Jacques Brel show make another tour or only be presented at Adelaide Fringe this year?

I hope that we will be able to continue to present the show with a little tour but for the moment we don’t know. We will see!

We thank John Waters for granting us this interview.



WHAT: Chansons de Jacques Brel at Adelaide Fringe

WHEN:  4 shows:

  • Thu 24 Feb .- Fri 25 Feb.: 7:20pm
  • Sat 26 Feb.: 7pm
  • Sun 27 Feb.: 5:50pm

WHERE : The Garage International @ Adelaide Town Hall

128 King William St, Adelaide, SA, 5000

HOW: Buy your tickets via this link:


Ticket prices are as follows:

  • Full Price: $59.00
  • Double Your Applause: Admits 1: $118.00
  • Concession: $55.00
  • Under 2s Free: $0.00
  • BankSA Cardholder: $44.25
  • Schools: $45.00
  • Companion Card: $0.00
  • Midweek Treat: $50.00


To find out about other events with French links happening around Australia and online, take a look at our What’s on in January article and subscribe below.



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