Theatre Love was explored in two distinctly different ways by Nathalie Mentha in the play ‘For Edith Piaf' and Parvathy Baul with her rendition of ‘Radhabhaav.' Bhawani Cheerath

T wo distinct worlds expressing the tender, the fragile and the elusive – traits of a single emotion, love – emerged when Nathalie Mentha presented ‘For Edith Piaf,' and Parvathy Baul rendered ‘Radhabhaav' through Chitrakatha Geetham, at the Vyloppilly Samskriti Bhavan in Thiruvananthapuram, recently.

Meet Edith Piaf, the street singer from Paris who went on to become an icon. Her credentials – she was brought up in sex workers' quarters and groomed by her street acrobat/singer father – transcended the mundane to become a singer of repute, both at home and abroad. It is said that on her death she was refused a Mass because of the life she lead, but, her death was the only occasion during the turbulent World War II years that all the traffic came to a standstill in Paris.

Eventful life

Nathalie Mentha of the itinerant Italian theatre group Teatro Potlach undertakes a musical journey through the life of Piaf using the singer's popular songs to weave in the singer's short lived but eventful career. With every song Nathalie brought alive the various phases of Piaf's life.

“Even when she was famous and successful Piaf had also seen that real love escaped her, yet she always exhorted her listeners to be happy if they had experienced it and never let despair overtake them,” says the actor.

While the songs she rendered were in French, the performance, interspersed with explanations in English, unveiled not merely the individual but also the troubled times that Piaf lived in.

In keeping with Teatro Potlach's approach to artistic performance, she used performing techniques that drew from the parade to the musical theatre, with quicksilver-like transformations she gave to the stage presence, to mark the changing phases of Piaf's life. The rise to rarefied realms of fame and social standing had its share of personal pain as becomes evident from the lines ‘Love is found in books and dreams' and ‘Love has always escaped me' – an emotion that Nathalie communicates with her voice and her total self.

Pino Di Buduo, artistic director of Teatro Potlachi, reminds us: “Edith Piaf is great because she experienced love but never could hold on to it for long. Yet she always reaffirms her faith in ‘hope.'”

Music through myth

Exploring the realm of love on an a different plane was Parvathy Baul as she wove her music through the myth of Radha and Krishna; the yearning, the pangs of unfulfilled love and the sublimation of love.

The mood here was created by the soulful rendering of Radha's dreams and fears by Parvathy, to the accompaniment of the ektara and the duggi.

Paintings based on the legend adorned the background and singer went through a combination of narration and singing to take us through the moods of Radha.

Unravelled through Edith Piaf's songs and life was a passion that had a vivaciousness about it, but when it came to ‘Radhabhaav' it was a combination of devotion and union of souls.

A simultaneous viewing of two distinct voices on a singularly vital human emotion opened up the intensity and passion in absolutely different ways.