“Nostalgia – it’s the theme of the evening!” In Love for Sale, Kelly Burke seems to have come to life from a Henry Miller novel and walked straight onto the set of Casablanca. With Joseph Atkins playing mesmerising piano, she even has her own Sam. This show is positioned between the languid love of an old Paris and the distant urgency of a looming war; the plot fits the setting as perfectly as the gloves on Burke’s pale, thin hands.
Pre-war Paris is as musical as it is sordid. In a waterfront establishment, where the patrons are mostly drunk and always interested, Burke runs a stellar show. There’s song, and poetry sometimes, but it’s always witty and ever-charming. The poetic content of the script is both original and commendable: “Want to buy some illusions?”, she croons, “Some for love, some for tears…” Or, “Tell me, is love still a popular suggestion, or an obsolete art?”
Nostalgia is definitely the theme, as amidst a careless and semi-bored clientele, our hostess talks about why she came to Paris, how she never left, why she fell in love, and what love is anyway. At no point does the narrative repeat itself, even though she is telling us the same stories of the same old lonely longing. In this cheap bar with a “cheap pianist”, we have an intimate conversation about the human heart… and Burke’s talent is spectacular.
A couple of things could have made the show even better. I would have loved to hear more duets – Burke and Atkins sing well together, and his character is very mysterious and interesting. Also, my French is lousy, and there are about five minutes when the dialogue and songs are in that language. I know it’s Paris, but I was enjoying the show so much that I felt a bit cheated; no-one wants to miss out on poetry.
This show begs to be watched with a loved one, soaked in completely, and followed up by dinner in an intimate French restaurant somewhere. And for visitors to Edinburgh, it contains the line which – for me – most perfectly sums up the Fringe: “I left my soul behind me, in an old cathedral town.”