Pop: Marianne Faithfull Bloomsbury Theatre, London

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The Independent Culture
Marianne Faithfull can provide entertainment merely by drinking a glass of water. If she decides to take a drink the show does not stop. Instead, it becomes part of the performance, as she begins her journey towards the small table bearing a jug and glass.

She may commence her walk beside the piano, where her accompanist waits patiently, watching, hands suspended above the keyboard. He knows she needs that water, so he waits. The walk is perfect, stately, but entirely natural and unpractised. In stiletto-heeled sandals she parades towards that little table, step by perfect step, her full blonde hair swishing in time. She pours herself a glass, throws her head back, and drinks. Next, she holds the microphone out of the way in her right hand and gives a little cough. Not a genteel, apologetic cough, but a real smoker's throat- clearer. And then, at last, she begins singing.

Marianne Faithfull sings Kurt Weill songs, mainly, and her cracked voice suits them well. The show is called "An Evening in the Weimar Republic", but she makes no attempt to magic us away to another era. There's no need for any such pretence. She sings the songs straight, as herself, and it works a treat. Just as long as she can get her hands on a glass of water from time to time. One suspects that she'd rather chain-smoke during the act really, but she does without a fag for the first 40-odd minutes, until she's finished singing "Mack the Knife". Then she sits down, lights up, coughs some more and tells us about her friend Harry Nilsson.

She and Harry did drugs together in the Sixties. "Real drugs," she points out. "Not these modern confections." Poor Harry survived the Sixties but later had the misfortune to be swindled by his accountant before dying in a dentist's chair. If this wasn't bad enough, he then disappeared in his coffin as the earth opened during the Los Angeles quake. Marianne Faithfull sings a song in memory of Harry Nilsson and promises him a line of coke. She likes to talk about Nilsson, Kurt Weill, Bertolt Brecht and Allen Ginsberg as lost friends. She doesn't spend time talking about herself.

After another poised walk along the edge of the stage, and a drop of water, she sings some more, the microphone held straight, her left hand pressed flat against the top of her thigh. Fantastic songs about the moon and sharks and whisky. At the end, she flings open her arms to the audience and accepts their applause. When she stands in the correct light Marianne Faithfull still looks quite beautiful. She praises her pianist Paul Trueblood and, with a smile, she's gone.

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