Madame Bijou is the French woman you probably already know about, without actually realising it.
Bijou is an enigma fueled by decades-old gossip and three photos - taken of her in 1932 by Hungarian photographer Brassai - of her sitting in a seedy Parisian bar, decked out in pearls, with cigarette butts stamped out by her feet.
No one even knows what Bijou's real name is but she has been the muse for numerous French novelists and playwright Jean Giraudoux for his work The Madwoman of Chaillot.
James Cameron even featured Bijou as one of the French women Jack drew in Titanic.
The fascination of who exactly this "nightmare from Baudelaire" was has captivated creatives since the 1930s, including Canberra's Chrissie Shaw.
The performer and playwright has stepped into Bijou's shoes (and jewels) since 2013, giving the mysterious woman a backstory based off of Shaw's own research and imagination.
The result is a story about an older woman who is still reliving her glory days and is yet to move passed them.
"Madame Bijou is this elderly woman who is said to have spoken with quite a genteel accent but she is basically a bag lady in the bars, begging for food," Shaw says.
"She hung around the bars and she told people's fortunes. She read people's palms and she might have read the cards too. She had around her neck what looked like a metal card holder.
"My idea was to tell a story as to why someone who has a genteel accent, and must have come from relatively not poor circumstances, ended up in the bars in Paris wandering about, staggering out at 2 o'clock in the morning into the street."
Like many others, Shaw stumbled onto Bijou through Brassai's photos. The woman's presence at the bar, "like she owns the place", was enough to pique the actor's interest.
"I wanted to be her," Shaw says.
By estimating her age in Brassai's photo, she realised Bijou's life would have been bookended by wars - first the Prussian war in 1870 and ending with World War II.
In Shaw's mind, these events - combined with the little information known about the real Bijou - would have created a woman who was very aware of what is going on in the world around her.
It's part of the reason why when Shaw wrote Bijou - A Cabaret of Secrets and Seduction she set it in 1933: one year after Brassai's photo was taken and in a time when Hitler was taking over in Germany.
"It's based on what could happen to a young girl - and I must say there is some fairly confronting stuff in it as well - but what could happen to a young girl that would then have her need to survive on her own, which is what sort of she does," Shaw says.
"It's one of those stories of a woman reinventing herself constantly to survive in a difficult world."
- Bijou - A Cabaret of Secrets and Seduction will be at French restaurant Le Très Bon in Bungendore on Saturday at 6.30pm and Sunday from noon. Bookings can be made at letresbon.com.au