Love for Sale

The title song, by Cole Porter, makes an appearance part way through the second half of this narrativised collection of numbers, and really speaks of the character’s ultimate state of mind as the consequence of a series of experiences following her move from America to Paris. Beginning demurely, every inch the charmingly vulnerable new-girl-in-town, writer and performer Kelly Burke portrays the transformation to the point at which her character feels able to market her love through a selection of songs, predominantly by Kurt Weill, with cabaret-esque exchanges with the audience intermingled between.

For fans of this style of music, this is an enjoyable production well worth seeing

Complemented capably by Joseph Atkins at the piano, the rapport between the two is established immediately, putting the audience at ease, as we relax into the laidback repartee between them. The quick wit, delivered with sharp charm, also extends into the audience, as Burke’s gaze is ever-roving, pinpointing individual spectators and fixing sparklingly upon them at particularly pertinent moments within the songs. Some of these moments are quite extended and it does feel as though Burke’s character divides her personal attentions to all attendees with generous equality.

As is often the risk with jukebox style pieces, the narrative thread woven around the selected songs is, perhaps inevitably, thin at times, but in the early parts of the performance this doesn’t matter too much. Burke’s relaxed and proficient delivery is a pleasure to listen to, and she has a knack for finding the humour in the lyrics and conveying it with impressive expression of tone and face. At risk of becoming repetitive, with song after song coming and going with brief dialogue for breathing space, the turning point in the middle of the piece is needed to maintain a sense of drama.

The second half reveals Burke’s writerly awareness, as her character undergoes something of a transformation. Indeed, the repetition of a previously heard song is a neat device for signposting the new position of the character. On this occasion, the portrayal of the second version of the singer was less convincing than the first, though the songs were still sung very well. While the renditions swelled with increasing emotion and desperation, there did remain some difficulty in fully empathising with the character. For fans of this style of music, this is an enjoyable production well worth seeing – it would just benefit from some script development to really maximise the emotional heart, which could be pushed further. 

Reviews by Joshua Clarke


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The Blurb

Heady, disintegrating pre-war Paris. An itinerant songstress struggles to keep hold of her wits and her virtue – but the City of Light has other plans. Kelly Burke (Off West End Award nomination, Best Actress) returns to the Fringe in this electrifying cabaret play, charting the backstreets of the 1930s via the music of Kurt Weill, Cole Porter and their contemporaries. ‘A tour de force – one of the best hours you will spend this festival’ ***** (ThreeWeeks). ‘Intoxicating’ (Stage).