Good girls don’t make history.
That’s one of the many important life lessons Marie Duplessis teaches us in the flamboyant cabaret Songs for the Fallen. The performance tells the story of Paris’ original party girl and fabulously expensive courtesan who lived luxuriously and died abruptly at the tender age of 21. Her legend has inspired many artistic renditions, such as Moulin Rouge, The Lady of the Camellias and La Traviata, where captivated audiences have watched poor Marie Duplessis die again and again.
But Sheridan Harbridge’s retelling of Marie’s life and death comes differently to those before it, as it finds humour in a dark tale and personifies the lavish party girl as someone relatable, someone desperately trying to survive in a dog-eat-dog world.
Most of the tale takes place in Maree’s ever-changing boudoirs, which seems fitting considering how much time she spent and the piles of money she made there. Accompanying her are two backup dancers/ singers/ guys who play every other character in the show, and act out each of their roles with great enthusiasm and gusto.
Though Sheridan is a tiny girl, her bouffant hair, tremendous voice and larger than life stage presence ensured all eyes were always on her. She carried the show along seamlessly, transitioning from scene to scene, costume to costume and before our eyes an hour thirty had passed and Marie had grown from a young street urchin to upper-class courtesan to debt-riddled corpse.
Though Baz Luhrman’s message ‘The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return’ doesn’t particularly carry through in Sheridan’s story, this raucous tale of partying, sex and death is sure to crack a giggle from even the steeliest of hearts and leave you wondering if behaving all the time is really worth it.