Tall and blonde, French singer Suzy Solidor beguiled men and women alike in her club La Vie Parisienne, which was one of the hottest spots in 1930s Paris.
In her new show All I Want Is One Night singer Jessica Walker delves into Solidor’s life and explores her on and off stage passions. Dressed in an admiral’s uniform, Walker commands the stage from the very beginning. We first meet Solidor in her later years, sitting in her own antiques shop and posing for a portrait by Swedish artist Lindstrom, played by Alexandra Mathie. Although known and remembered as a singer, Solidor reveals that antiques were her first love, discovered during her relationship with the antiques dealer Yvonne de Brémond d’Ars, when she first came to Paris in the 1920s. As she reminisces, she slips into a cream-coloured evening gown and takes us back in time to the height of her fame.
Solidor came from St. Malo on the north coast of Brittany, and Jessica Walker portrays her as someone who clearly enjoyed life: she delights in songs, poems and flirting with both female and male audience members. There is always an air of playfulness and possibility – the themes of ‘sea, sex and sailors’ are evident in many of her songs and for Les filles de St. Malo (The Girls of St Malo), one of her greatest hits, Jessica Walker has not only translated the lyrics into English to make them more accessible, but also retained some of the French verses, giving us a flavour of the original poetry of the song. Solidor lived an openly lesbian life, and we meet some of her conquests, among them a shy Baroness, and the painter Tamara de Lempicka. She created the most iconic image of her, which is captured in a style typical of the 1930s. Solidor had many portraits taken, mainly to decorate her club with, which is reflected in Amanda Stoodley’s beautiful set.
Throughout, Walker is skilfully accompanied by Joseph Atkins on piano and accordion, and shares the stage with Alexandra Mathie and Rachel Austin, who appear as various figures from her past – family, friends, rivals, and lovers.
All I Want Is One Night is an evening of song, poetry, love and lust, and the worthy rediscovery of a major player of the French cabaret world.
The show found a perfect home at Wilton’s Music Hall in London before it moved to the Hope Mill Theatre in Manchester, where it runs until 9 July.