Love on the Left Bank is a show of French chanson like no other

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Louise Blackwell is at her absolute best in Love on the Left Bank. It’s a show that Louise has researched and created with director Catherine Fitzgerald about the life of Juliette Gréco, French actress and interprète who brought the French songbook to life. Originally conceived for the Adelaide Cabaret Festival 2022, with the aid of a merited government grant, Louise Blackwell received a well-earned Adelaide Fringe Artist Grant, which enabled the show to be taken to new audiences across three venues for Adelaide Fringe 2023.

Love on the Left Bank

Louise Blackwell makes us do a double take as she walks on stage transformed into Juliette Gréco with black bob wig, and a long flowing black boat necked dress. Louise’s past acting skills (with Geoffrey Rush’s Magpie Theatre no less) are called into play as she expressively acts out parts of Gréco’s story, which adds a nice touch. She alternates between narrating in her own voice and acting out snippets in Gréco’s. Similarly, Louise sings some songs in her signature style, others in the style of Gréco.


About that singing: Louise is an incredibly skilled chanteuse and easily among the crème de la crème of Australia’s performers of French chanson. She honed her craft under the tutelage of two major Paris jazz singers, Sara Lazarus and Michèle Hendricks and started out in Parisian jazz clubs (much like Juliette Gréco herself!).


Love on the Left Bank opens with Jacques Hélian’s À

Saint Germain de Près, a perfect choice to transport us to Juliette Gréco’s bohemian hangout, where we will spend most of the evening. Louise’s storytelling in the show is so evocative, that we really do feel transported to post-war Bohemian Paris and its underground clubs and cafes where Juliette would wile away the time with the likes of Simone de Beauvoir, Margueritte Dumas, Jean-Paul Sartre, Maurice Merleu-Ponty, and Albert Camus. This feeling is enhanced by the use of red spotlights at the back of the stage.


Louise is accompanied by six stellar musicians, some of whom you will have seen in her previous Adelaide Fringe or Bastille Day shows. Mark Simeon Ferguson is on piano as always, and he was also the musical director for Love on the Left Bank. There’s Julian Ferrarretto on the violin, Josh Baldwin on drums and John Aué on double bass, all of whom faithful Louise Blackwell audiences would recognise. Newer faces are Tom Pullford on saxophone and clarinet, and Lazaro Numa on trumpet.


The musicians all get their turn in the spotlight in Love on the Left Bank, with them joining in on certain songs and some of them also having brief speaking parts in the roles of Jean-Paul Sartre, Miles Davis, among others. It was nice to see the musicians taking on these roles, and they appeared to enjoy doing so too.


The musicians aren’t just performing the songs Louise sings in Love on the Left Bank either Piano and violin add intrigue to Louise’s storytelling when she recounts Juliette Gréco’s experience of being followed, interrogated and imprisoned.


You may think that you don’t know Juliette Gréco, yet you will find that you know several of the songs in Love on the Left Bank. After all, many songs were written for Juliette or she made them her own. Chansons that will be familiar to Francophones and Francophiles alike include La javanaise, which Serge Gainsbourg wrote for Juliette and Sous le ciel de Paris. Juliette was also known for putting poetry to music, initially at Jean-Paul Sartre’s request and it was great to hear Louise perform a few of the poems Gréco performed.


Love on the Left Bank truly is a show of French chanson, like no other. The blend of storytelling, exceptionally skilled singing and stellar musicianship makes this show an absolute must see. We hope that this show gets to tour so that audiences outside of Adelaide can also experience it at least once.


Matilda Marseillaise was a guest of Adelaide Fringe


The Adelaide Fringe season of Love on the Left Bank has now concluded but we strongly recommend you follow Louise Blackwell on Facebook to be informed of her next shows.


You can also read our interview with Louise about the show here



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For other non-Adelaide Fringe events happening in Adelaide and all of Australia this month, check out our What’s on in March.



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