In the cosy cabaret setting of The Crazy Coqs at Brasserie Zedel, Stefan Bednarczyk brings to life songs and verses by the legendary Noel Coward.
Coward started as a child actor and would go on to become a celebrated songwriter, performer and playwright whose work, including Private Lives and what would become Brief Encounter, stands the test of time and.
Coward also wrote an extensive catalogue of songs and Stefan Bednarczyk does a marvellous job of performing the solid material. By interlacing the pieces with short anecdotes and musings, the evening is not only entertaining but also informative for those less schooled in Coward’s life and repertoire.
At points Bednarczyk recites a few Coward verses with glee. He handles the rhythm of the lines with such skill that the audience hangs onto every word, even when he ventures into lesser-known territory.
The evening contains a lovely mix of songs. “Nina” and “A Bar on the Piccola Marina” provide simple but effective amusement, while others often prove stirring, particularly those written in the 1940s. During the Second World War, Noel Coward performed for the troops to boost morale, resulting in the controversial “Don’t let’s be Beastly to the Germans” and the gorgeous “London Pride”, which is very satisfying to listen to, especially if one lives in London.
Coward’s songs often contain humorous observations of life: “Mrs Worthington” about a pushy stage mum, for example; or the mocking “There Are Bad Times Just Around the Corner” which seems just as relevant today as when it first was written.
The romantic side to Coward is hinted upon in a lovely excised verse of “Mad About The Boy” and in the wry honesty of “I Travel Alone” and “If Love Were All”. Stefan Bednarczyk handles the different emotions with incredible flair and pulls in the audience with his clear love and enjoyment of the material.
Coward once said: “I'll go and see anything so long as it amuses me, or moves me. If it doesn't do either I want to go home.” From the reception of the encore, “Mad Dogs and Englishmen”, I gathered there was no one really ready to go home last night.