Image courtesy of Michael Hodgson.
20 years after their debut at The Gathering, Pitch Black have satiated a packed venue of fans at London’s Oslo, in Hackney.
Living on different sides of the world, it’s been three years since Michael Hodgson and Paddy Free have performed together – though you wouldn’t have thought it. What they delivered was a high-energy, united and polished performance – no one would have guessed that they had also taken on the challenge of working with some new equipment for the first time. High risk perhaps, but we would expect nothing less from these true Kiwi pioneers of electronic music – and it paid off.
I arrived about an hour before Pitch Black hit the stage, to a crowd happily vibing to Radioactive Man. There’s something special about going to a gig attended mostly by Kiwis – there’s always a unique energy about it. When I interviewed them, Mike and Paddy had remarked on how they are now on a second generation of fans – and this was definitely evident from the people filling the room, eager to experience whatever they had in store for us. It’s the first gig I’ve attended in awhile where the over-30s/40s significantly outnumbered the younger generation… and everyone seemed to be happily straddling both the present as well as a space somewhere in their own memories. Smiles were abundant. Meeting and connecting with strangers was abundant. There was a lot of aroha in that space.
Paddy was there: vibing with the crowd to Radioactive Man. Chilling at the bar, engaging in conversations with fans. He was completely generous with his time and attention, as was Mike, for each and every individual that wanted to connect with them.
Then it was time for Pitch Black to take to the stage – no mucking about; things took off right away, and we were transported to a place – somewhere unique for each of us, yet experienced together at the same time. The synergy between Mike and Paddy on stage spread to the crowd in front of them. I’m a little too young to have been at The Gathering in 1996 – but last night, I felt as though I may well have been there. The crowd was a diverse and eclectic mix of people from all walks of life – travelling together with the beat, experiencing the music as an extension of their being. The only way I knew for sure that it was a room mainly full of Kiwis, was the lack of footwear… shoes abandoned, people leaping barefoot. It’s completely fair and justified for Pitch Black not to categorise themselves within any specific genre… because their mix of styles really transcends that. And they are masters of what they do. I had an incredible night, on a journey through sound, where I honestly forgot I was in London in 2016. But let me be clear: this music is not dated. Michael and Paddy continue to push the boundaries of genre and of electronic music; of what is really possible with equipment. Still pioneering electronica… crossing multiple genres. Having experienced some of their new material from their upcoming album in September, I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy.
It’s interesting to consider if these guys had been born in England, rather than New Zealand, that they might easily have been bigger than the Chemical Brothers.
To me, these humble Kiwi blokes will always have set the benchmark, for what electronic music should aspire to.
Seamless excellence from Pitch Black – left the crowd wanting more, left themselves wanting more. Like a fine wine, this duo only seems to get better with age.
Review by Charlotte Everett. May only be re-used with permission.
Recently went home to New Zealand and managed to spend a couple of hours at Muriwai beach before heading to the airport.
Incredible West Coast surf beach with black sand and a gannet colony… check it out.
New Zealander Corey Baker is bringing Kiwi culture and kapa haka to Britain’s shores and people –all wrapped up in the excitement of the Rugby World Cup. Kapa Haka Tale and Haka Day Out will tour UK-wide during the world cup, showing the locals that there’s more to Haka and New Zealand than the All Blacks.
Originally from a drama background, Corey Baker has been a dancer and choreographer for some time – forging a reputation for making accessible and engaging productions. “I don’t do dance for dance’s sake,” he explains. “Our shows are put on mainly outdoors. National theatres are expensive, whereas I make great art more accessible by putting things outside.”
Having been in the UK for four years, Baker was starting to realise that he was becoming more stereotypically “British”. He wanted to connect more with his New Zealand roots, so he proactively sought out the New Zealand community in the UK. “The UK doesn’t really celebrate culture,” Baker remarked, “so it was refreshing to see this amazing group of New Zealanders celebrating kapa haka. We have an amazing culture. I’m from New Zealand, and I don’t know a huge amount about New Zealand culture – so what about people in the UK? I did some research about what people know, and it’s really only the Lord of the Rings and the All Blacks. And the All Blacks is what they know of the Haka”.
“I asked myself, why am I not taking responsibility to do this?” There was the opportunity to create a show. The British already know something of the haka through the All Blacks, so the Rugby World Cup seemed like the perfect opportunity to bring New Zealand culture to England.
Baker then returned to New Zealand for a period of research, and to train in kapa haka and find a story or narrative. “Just having a medley of kapa haka on stage is not that exciting,” he explains, “and other people are already doing that anyway. I wanted to create something where the audience can follow and understand the art form – and engage with it.”
He travelled all around New Zealand, and it was in Rotorua that he came across an animation of the Maori tale of Hinemoa and Tutanekai, by Andy Shaw. “The animation was so beautifully done,” Baker reflects, “I then learnt the story and fell in love with it. I cancelled everything else to really explore the story, their marae, the rock where Hinemoa sat, I met and spoke with direct descendents, and explored loads of different versions of the tale.”
And so, Kapa Haka Tale was born. It has developed into a theatre show, just over an hour long, and will tour art festivals as well as theatres all around to UK – in addition to staging the free outdoor 20 minute performance called Haka Day Out in Rugby World Cup Fan Zones in 11 host cities. It’s a unique opportunity to share New Zealand and Maori culture with rugby and sports fans, and it’s Baker’s hope that they will be intrigued enough to want to experience more – with tickets to the longer show that same evening or matinee being available. Each theatre will individually determine the cost Kapa Haka Tale tickets, but the price range will be between £6 to £12 – making theatre more accessible and appealing to people who are maybe put off by the higher prices theatre is typically known for. “In the Fan Zones it will already be a populated crowd,” Baker says, “and these are perhaps not the same crowds that come to see shows, dance or theatre – so I’m very excited to engage with them, and hopefully make the art more accessible to them. The whole idea is to excite and engage with these sports fans.”
“And I’m really excited about the geographical spread of this going so wide. We’re taking this to areas where people usually miss out. Not just London! I’m really looking forward to it.”
The theatre show has a central cast of 8, forging a powerful connection with the audience and the performer. Kapa Haka Tale aspires to engage with the local community and rugby groups, using haka to open the show, and incorporating a plenty of rugby moves into the production. Cameo appearances will be made by important players in host cities.
Haka Day Out tours have already commenced and will continue until November, with Kapa Haka Tale premiering on the same day that the Rugby World Cup opens. A behind-the-scenes of Kapa Haka Tale and Maori culture is planned for UK broadcast, and Baker hopes to take the production on a tour of New Zealand at a later date – once rest, timing and funding allows.
The productions are still not entirely funded, and Corey Baker Dance has set up a Kickstarter campaign, hoping to raise the last 10% of funding – with only a few days to go. If you’d like to get involved and contribute to the Kapa Haka story, visit the Kickstarter campaign here.
Article by Charlotte Everett, originally featured in NZ News UK. May only be re-used with permission.
If there’s one thing you must do while visiting London, it’s of course head to the theatre. More people attended London’s theatres last year than Premier League football matches. But with hundreds of options to choose from – ranging from plays at the Old Vic, to the big West End musicals – how do you choose something that ticks all of the boxes, and is easy on the budget?
Might I suggest something a little different. The West End is wonderful, but it can be pricey, and you have the opportunity to see a lot of the big musicals in places besides London. London is famed also for her many smaller theatres, where new works are created and daringly developed, and also where some of our most accomplished theatre-makers were born and nurtured.
The Blue Elephant Theatre is one such gem, tucked away in the South London district of Camberwell. If you’re looking to go “where the locals go”, the Blue Elephant is just the place.
Currently showing until April 4 is an adaptation of Mervyn Peake’s dark novella, Boy in Darkness. The Blue Elephant has enjoyed a special relationship with Mervyn Peake’s work, having already produced successful stage premieres of The Cave and Noah’s Ark. Boy in Darkness is the story of a privileged young teen escaping a castle; a story steeped in adventure, horror and the macabre. The novella has been re-worked as a solo performance by adaptor and performer Gareth Murphy, and directed by John Walton.
The story’s root as a novella shines through in Murphy’s performance, which is a wonderful mix of storytelling and physical theatre. It lends itself well to being a solo work, with the performer craftily switching between the narrator and the story’s four characters with a smoothness as though reading a storybook.
The energy and physicality of the piece enables the adult performer to convincingly convey the young boy’s terrifying journey. The studio theatre has been converted to utilise a thrust stage that creates an even greater intimacy, pulling the audience into the dark depths of the boy’s adventure into the underworld. Murphy utilises the space to its full potential – climbing about not only Martin Thomas’ brilliant timber set, but also scaling the walls of the theatre itself, radiators, and clambering behind the audience.
The boy’s disturbing encounter with the unsavoury characters of Goat and Hyena sends chills down the spine, but is nothing on the evil that is to come later in the form of their lord – the apparent boy-eating Lamb. The presence of these three characters easily justifies the fear that dominates the boy – in his eyes, his facial intensity, his words and of course, his movements.
Boy in Darkness is a fairytale for adults that makes the Grimm Brothers look like Disney. If you’re looking for either something different to experience – or simply physical theatre and storytelling at its finest – be sure to check it out. And at only £12.50 full price (or a tenner for students), it’s an absolute steal for theatre in this fine city.
Blog written by and play reviewed by Charlotte Everett.
Boy in Darkness is on at Blue Elephant Theatre until April 4, shows Wednesday to Saturday, with all performances at 8pm.
It’s a rare talent to command the undivided attention of a packed London venue, but that is exactly what Wellingtonian Louis Baker achieved upon his return to London last week with a sold-out gig at St Pancras Old Church.
Louis provided an aural experience of sensory delights in a venue that reverberated with the sincerity and generosity of the performer himself. Opening with his well-known song Birds seemed a highly appropriate choice, as the set quickly took flight into the heavens themselves.
Two songs in, Louis remarked, “Playing in a place like this… I’m just warming into it… it’s such an experience; so good to be here – I’m just coming to terms with it”.
The intimate, candle-lit setting could not be better suited to a performer who is clearly motivated by the desire to share something of great value with his audience. The music serves as a vehicle for the values that Louis upholds himself and was proactive in speaking about: “I truly believe in us moving forward together as one people – that’s what this song Movin’ is about”… Just Want to Thank You is about intuition and trusting yourself… and his song Love, written when he was only 17, shares his belief in non-violence. Back On My Feet tells the story of how Louis’ journey with music has helped him get back on his feet – a journey that he is now sharing with his growing number of fans throughout the world.
Louis’ set overall provided a relaxed vibe that showcased the beauty and power of solo performance as well as allowing his soulful vocals to shine. Although alone on stage, Louis is not content with simply entertaining his audience, rather, he craves audience participation – vocals, foot-tapping, clapping – and the crowd is always happy to accept his invitation. Attending one of his gigs, you really get a sense in sharing in the music and creating something together. He has a casual vibe and his interaction with his audience always allows everyone to feel at ease. His cover of Purple Rain was eagerly embraced, and he completely elevated the energy in the room finishing with his own Get Back. Clearly won over, the crowd roared for an encore, to which they were enthusiastically given a rendition of Marvin Gaye’s Let’s Get It On.
Every time Louis Baker returns to London, his fan-base seems to have at least doubled in size. It’s hardly surprising, considering his immense talent and generosity as a performer – once you’ve been to one gig, you’ll be keen to go to them all. Definitely one to keep watching – be sure not to miss him next time he’s in town.
Review/article by Charlotte Everett. May only be re-used with permission. Originally written for NZNewsUK.
A special article for Remembrance Day 2014.
It’s not every day as a journo that you attend a post-match press conference and a rugby player brings tears to your eyes. But that is essentially what happened to me on Saturday after the All Blacks played England at Twickenham.
As a Kiwi, I’ve grown up with remembrance. For as far back as I can remember, I’ve always attended services for ANZAC Day (25 April, the anniversary of the Gallipoli landings). It started with me marching in the ANZAC morning parades as a Pippin, Brownie and then a Girl Guide. As a city-dwelling university student, I attended the dawn services at Auckland War Memorial Museum. ANZAC Day was a day off – students would often have a big night on the 24th, but it didn’t matter what wretched state you were in early the next morning, you got up, you went to the dawn service, and you damn well paid your respects. In my group of friends at least, the one thing you would never dream of doing is treating ANZAC Day as a day for a lie-in to sleep off yet another holiday hangover.
Things were no different on moving to London. If anything, I’ve witnessed the ANZAC spirit taken even more seriously. It’s no small feat getting up for the ANZAC dawn service at Hyde Park Corner; it’s a bit more of a challenge than at home – it requires irregular night buses, a little more self-motivation (unlike at home where everyone in your flat would be going), and of course it’s not a day off – so you’ll be dragging yourself out for a strong coffee and brekkie afterwards, before making your bleary-eyed way into work. But you don’t complain. And no, you don’t think you deserve a medal. But there’s a sombre sense of completeness that you’ve done what little you can to briefly acknowledge someone else’s sacrifice.
But this isn’t about the ANZACs specifically. That just comes from me drawing on my own personal experience. This is about remembrance in a broader sense – why we Remember Them, and if we even understand what we’re remembering.
In this year, the centenary of the start of the First World War, a few friends and colleagues have been rather taken aback by my “fixation” on remembrance. I’ve been criticised from all angles – and some of the places the criticism has come from has been a surprise. Some believe it’s an interest that springs from coming from a military family of sorts. Others have said that I’ve become fixated on remembering the dead because my mother is dead. It really is quite astounding and shocking what people come out with.
And most surprising of all, is that most people don’t even bother asking me WHY – they’d rather just hold the opinion that I’m a little odd and morbid.
The truth is, contrary to the family I come from (who never really spoke about either war) and my participation in and attendance of commemorative services, I actually knew very little about either WW1 or WW2 until very recently. The interest has really sprung from a trip I took out to the WW1 battlefields of the Western Front with First Festival Travel a couple of years ago. It was an experience that changed my life and my opinion on remembrance forever; you can read about it here. But in a nutshell, I was somewhat ashamed to be forced to admit that actually I knew NOTHING. I had opinions on things I knew absolutely nothing about. In fact, even though I knew Gallipoli, I had no idea what the Western Front was, let alone its importance. I had no clue (if I am to be perfectly honest here) about why the First World War even started, or what it was we were fighting for. I was naive to the real numbers of those who fought, of those who fell, and of those many whose graves are unknown. I had no knowledge of the propaganda, of when and how conscription worked, and of who was making the decisions.
Is it important we know these things? Yes, it absolutely is. Because if we don’t know what or why we’re remembering – to be frank – remembrance becomes empty and devoid of any real meaning. If we’re just going through the motions, what is the point?
The truth is that many people have no idea about the “what’s” and “why’s” we’re remembering – and it is absolutely not their fault. I’m still scratching my head as to why I was taught about Gallipoli at school, but the Western Front was never even mentioned – even though more New Zealanders died at Passchendaele than at Gallipoli. This is just an example, but from what I’ve seen anywhere I go, there seems to be a general lack of awareness and understanding about the First World War. How can we expect people to truly understand remembrance – let alone learn lessons from that past to understand our future – if we don’t give them the knowledge to begin with?
Back to Saturday… pre kick-off, Twickenham Stadium. It’s the day before Remembrance Sunday and also the centenary year of the start of the First World War – a commemoration is taking place pre-match on the pitch, involving flags, music and the British Armed Forces – and it’s impressive. The Last Post sounds. Rather than being followed by a minute’s silence, however, 82,000 people burst into cheering and applause. I was absolutely horrified. But the fact that the majority of spectators thought it appropriate to applaud the Last Post is testament to a lack of understanding that they can absolutely not be blamed for.
At the post-match press conference, All Blacks Captain Richie McCaw was asked if given the proximity of this match to Remembrance Sunday, if it was extra emotional for the team to put the jersey on, thinking back to those others who have worn it – and no doubt alluding to the 13 All Blacks who died in the First World War specifically.
“It definitely has significance for our team,” Richie answered. “We always make sure we take a moment to understand why you put the poppy on the sleeve, and why people remember all those years ago. One of the things that always hits Kiwis – and especially our team – is when you say that during the First World War the population of our country was only a million, and 100,000 of that million then came to fight over here… and that puts a fair bit of reality around what you do. It adds a little bit of something extra to why you want to go and play well when you have the poppy on the sleeve. There’s no doubt that our boys understand that, and we make a point of remembering that. We’re all here living the way that we are because of what a lot of men did all those years ago. I think the great thing is that we have a chance to pay our respects, and go out and perform, and in that way too, pay our respects.”
Now to be clear, I’m not trying to suggest that Richie McCaw is extraordinary in his capacity to understand remembrance. But the reason his words touched me so much was because I was thinking, “Now here’s an ordinary guy, a rugby player, a typical Kiwi – who gets it”. The difference isn’t that Richie McCaw is a legendary All Black – the difference is that he makes “a point of remembering” and taking a moment to “understand why” you put the poppy on the sleeve, for example.
Whether Richie McCaw’s point of reference comes from seeking understanding himself, or having it fostered within the team, I’m not sure. But it doesn’t really matter. The point is that if we want to understand the true meaning of remembrance, we have to seek the answers (and the questions) out for ourselves. And it’s something that I hope this Remembrance Day, you will make the effort to do. What remembrance absolutely is not, is glorifying an old war. What remembrance is, is understanding why we had to fight, why we remember those who had no choice but to fight, and crucially, what we must learn from it today.
Lest We Forget.
Written by Charlotte Everett. May be re-used with permission only.