BIJOU content

BIJOU CABARET: Content of the show

Madame Bijou, in her faded finery and fake pearls, sits in a café in Paris in 1933. A photograph of her taken by Brassai, has shocked her into unleashing a string of memories that unfold her life story backwards in time, from 1933 to the 1870s.

Each piece of jewellery triggers a story.  Songs from the French chanson repertoire, and music by French composers, awaken memories or become part of the stories.

 This cabaret takes you into the milieu of French Cabaret from its inception in the 1880s in Paris (Le Chat Noir) in a setting which evokes and references the Parisian Cabarets of the period. The audience is transported into a cabaret/bar space and through the show are naturally moved through the periods from the 1930s back to the 1880s and further. The layers of costume are peeled off as the layers of the past are unravelled.  The character is based on a real identity, and the audience are invited to believe they are in the presence of this ‘real’ woman in her habitual environment.


The story starts in the 1933 present, as Bijou enters the bar, berates the musician for playing pretentious classical music, exhorts him to play something more lively, dances, collects tips, sees the Brassai photograph, and launches into her stories.  Act 1 includes the exposition of the story and some of the most dramatic content, including abuse and betrayal, a seduction in a theatre, and the running of a high-class brothel. The Act finishes with Bijou storming out of the bar to escape the pianist’s defiant return to the music she dislikes. Act 2 begins in the Belle Epoque with her description of her marriage to a German General and her escape, then takes us through her experiences as a courtesan, a stage dancer, and her life with her ‘true love’ at le Chat Noir. She reverts to childhood, reliving the tragic death of her father and her removal to a country villa, and finally jolts back into the present, vowing to take revenge on Brassai for his insulting pictures and words. The song ‘Nocturn’ Bar’ bookends the show, in French at the beginning, in English at the end; an exhortation to live for the moment and laugh at fate.




Scene 1: There Have Been Harder Times (1933)

Selection of music by Henri Duparc, Reynaldo Hahn, Claude Debussy, Francis Poulenc.

Gnossienne #3: Erik Satie 1890

Y’M’Faudrait Foxtrot: J Delannay, A. Deprince

Nocturn’ Bar: A Deprince, J.Delannay

Musette Waltz : unknown

La Valse des Bas Noirs : Music : Gaston Maquis  1893

Parlez-Moi d’Amour: Jean Lenoir 1930

Scene 2. Les Annees Folles: A Love Story (1920-1925)

Charleston: Improvised by Alan Hicks 2013

Cocardes 111: Enfant de Troupe: F. Poulenc 1919

Je Te Veux: Erik Satie 1902

Mon Homme: A Willemetz, J Charles, Maurice Yvain 1916

Scene 3. War and Peace (1933-42? 1914-1918)

The Red Melody: Kurt Tucholsky, Friedrich Hollaender 1922

Scene 4. A Dear Little House (1909-1917)

La Chere Maison: Emil Jacques-Dalcroze 1905

Ballad of Sexual Obsession: B. Brecht, K. Weill 1928

Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence: 17th C French Carol ‘Picardy’

Scene 5: House Hunting and House Warming (1908)

Bacchanal, Samson and Delilah Act 3: Saint-Saens

Scene 6. The First and Last Lessons (1876-1883, 1917-1920)

Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence: 17th C French Carol ‘Picardy’

Le Boeuf Sur le Toit: ‘Nothing Doing’ Tango des Fratellini; Darius Milhaud 1920.


Scene 1. Das Deutsche General (1888-1891)

Die Fledermaus: Brother Mine, Duidu, Mein Herr Marquis: Johann Strauss 11 1874

La Polka des Chonchons: Emile Spenser 1890

La Separation: G Herbert, Alfred Bert 1893. Transl. C Shaw

Scene 2. La Belle Topaze (1891-1907)

Ich Bin von Kopf bis Fuss: Sammy Lerner, Friedrich Hollaender 1930

Les Marcheuses: Aristide Bruant 1880s

La Chatelaine : Fantasie a la Valse: Alphonse Leduc 1840-60

Claire de Lune: Claude Debussy 1890

Scene 3. The First Patron (1887)

The Diva of the Empire: Erik Satie 1904

Scene 4. (an interlude) Age Catches Up (1933)

Perpetual Tango: Erik Satie 1914

Scene 5. First Real Love (1880-1886)

The Lonely Wood: J.B. Weckerlin: from 18th Century source

Le Chat Noir: Aristide Bruant 1884

Gnossienne #1: Erik Satie 1890

Scene 6. Death of a Brave Soldier (1871-1876)

Savez-Vous Planter des Choux?: Nursery Rhyme

A Paris: Nursery Rhyme

A Vous Direz-Je Maman: French melody 1761

Scene 7. Keep Going No Matter What (1933)

Reprise Parlez-Moi D’Amour: Jean Lenoir. Transl. C Shaw

Reprise Nocturn’ Bar: Transl. C Shaw

A CHRONOLOGY: A Speculative Semi-Fictional Biography

MEANING OF THE JEWELS IN BIJOU. “Each one tells a story”.


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