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PRESS REVIEW

nº80 / ROMAIN BRAU / MADAME ARTHUR / PARIS

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In a small street of Pigalle, Madame Arthur, a renowned cabaret rolls out the red carpet for actor, cabaret singer, Romain Brau. There is no escape of his charm, killing humour, and fabulous madness. Indeed, how dull Paris would be without him?




Review by Zoltan Alexander




COVER THE INSTIGATOR Romain Brau Madame Arthur

DARLING º

WHERE ARE MY STILLETOS? (Romain Brau)

Madame Arthur is a woman who was talked about for a long time, without complaint. She had a lot of lovers... Madame Arthur est une femme, qui fit parler d’elle longtemps, sans réclame. Elle eut une foule d’amants.



When fairies and fairy-tales go to sleep, irresistible creatures in paillette come out, and life begins at Madame Arthur, in this small, cancan-free cabaret. It opened in 1946, a one-of-a-kind first female impersonator cabaret with famous showgirls like Bambi, Cricri, Coccinnelle, Rafael Molina, and many others. Having been closed for many years, it was entirely restored, and reopened in November 2015, literally dragging Madame Arthur into the future.



THE INSTIGATOR Romain Brau Madame Arthur reception
Antoine at Madame Arthur reception / Photo © Courtesy of Joel Saget

Here, you are safe, safe from the tension and aggression of a fast-paced city. Once you walk through the door, time stops, there is no indication of a year, or decade anymore. Two underlit concert halls waiting for the clients, one large, the another intimately small with red velvets, large faded mirrors, a dozen of round tables and champagne.


At Madame Arthur, musicians and performers share their love of French music for a very eclectic audience, varying from fashionable 20s to cool 60s. You don’t have to be in drag, or be part of any community to come, you could be a lawyer, a student, or a film star, it does not matter, because everybody feels comfortable, and people talk to each other with ease. It is a place for a refusal to conform, to established sexual norms. So flamboyant, so French!



THE INSTIGATOR Romain Brau Madame Arthur
Romain Brau at Madame Arthur / Photo © Courtesy of Zoltan Alexander

You would not be surprised if you had turn around and saw Cocteau on one side, Serge Gainsbourg on the other, or his father at the piano. There is a glimpse of a flamboyant aura delivered by Romain Brau, this ageless young man, who invited our magazine to see his performance. But let's meet the artist closer.


In every sense, actor, burlesque singer Romain Brau is a fabulously gender fluid star in all the circles in Paris, whether it’s art, fashion, or cabaret. Movies are also under his thumb, starring in Haute Couture with Nathalie Baye, Les Crevettes Pailletèes part I and II, and in many others. He recently performed at the Centre George Pompidou during “The Crossing of Appearances” exhibition, juxtaposing fashion and art with “Le Corps à la Letter”, love-letters written by Laurence Benaïm to the grands couturiers.

 

Tonight, at Madame Arthur, accompanied by Leslie Bourdin at the piano, all his characters step out in a solo act as an irresistible fashion persona.


 

THE INSTIGATOR Romain Brau Madame Arthur - Suzanne
(left) Romain Brau at Madame Arthur / Photo © Courtesy of Zoltan Alexander (right) Album cover of Suzanne / Photo © Courtesy of Nathan Selighini

The show begins with a sublime song Suzanne that has been recently released. At age 7, people called him Suzanne. “In the eyes of these people, I was nothing but a girl, a “faggot”, as they ironically called me at the time. Action and reaction, I sing “brûlez moi” referring to the extreme bullying at school I had live through. It’s a revenge! A divine therapy.” Romain Brau

 

In this captivating, new musical of a one-diva show, Brau rolls out the red carpet with his stilettos, and shares his obsessions and fantasies. He takes us for a turbulent voyage into his glamorous and powerful world of fashion, the violent years in school, love-affairs, family, social media, gender identity and sexuality.

 


THE INSTIGATOR Romain Brau Madame Arthur
Romain Brau at Madame Arthur / Photo © Courtesy of Zoltan Alexander

Romain Brau at Madame Arthur / Video © Courtesy of Zoltan Alexander



On the poster, he is naked, as it is absolutely the feeling of his performance. “I am even more naked on stage, because ultimately I offer the guests my heart, my story, my intimate life, that is under my skin.” Romain Brau



THE INSTIGATOR Romain Brau at Madame Arthur
Romain Brau at Madame Arthur / Photo © Courtesy of Julien Benhamou

Brau is liberating, a breath of fresh air. As always, he has full control on his audience, and a master proficiency with his performance. Being faithful to his killing humour, he interacts with the audience - who are completely integrated with his show. He openly teases them, provokes them, men & women equally, and there is no escape from his charm, his wit, and fabulous madness. 


 

THE INSTIGATOR Romain Brau Madame Arthur
Romain Brau at Madame Arthur / Photo © Courtesy of Zoltan Alexander

It is a 'spectacle vivant’. I sing, I do the theatre, I take the public into my deepest intimacy, and let my personality run wild. In France, we are sometimes afraid to touch or accept different disciplines and practices. I do absolutely want to pull several strings in this show, and work with everything I have. Music holds the most important place in my heart, even when I speak, it feels I’m singing.” Romain Brau



THE INSTIGATOR Romain Brau Madame Arthur
Romain Brau at Madame Arthur / Photo © Courtesy of Zoltan Alexander

Brau says fashion bores him, but strong looks turn his head. What he really likes is creation. For the show he created some truly unique pieces. In one of the scenes, he pulls out a large plastic dustbin, filled with pieces of paper, metal and whatever people throw away, and within seconds he creates fabulous couture dresses out of them, mimicking the grand couturiers.


Then he quickly changes tone for a heart-breaking song, showing a vulnerable side, and there is not one person in the salle without tears. But at the end, lights go up, the joie de vivre returns. He invites his audience to come up on to the stage and sing with him, ending the show with sweet madness, hugging, and an unforgettable night to celebrate all our differences, and realise how similar we actually are.


 

THE INSTIGATOR Romain Brau Madame Arthur
Romain Brau at Madame Arthur / Photo © Courtesy of Zoltan Alexander


 


INDEX



COVER THE INSTIGATOR Romain Brau Madame Arthur


COVER

Photo © Courtesy of Zoltan Alexander

Cover design © ZOLTAN+MEDIA


MADAME ARTHUR

Romain Brau

26 January - 27 April 2024

Madame Arthur / Paris (France)


PHOTOGRAPHS / COURTESY OF THE FOLLOWING ARTISTS

Madame Arthur / France

Joel Saget / France

Nathan Selighini / France

Julien Benhamou / France

Zoltan Alexander / UK


PHOTOGRAPHS

© curated by Zoltan Alexander


WEBDESIGN

© ZOLTAN+MEDIA London


MADAME ARTHUR PARIS


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