REVIEW: London audience intoxicated by Wellington’s soulful Louis Baker

Louis1Photo by Karl Burrows.

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.

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REVIEW: Shakespeare’s “Richard III”, adapted and directed by Gavin Harrington-Odedra (Lazarus Theatre Company)

London-based New Zealander Gavin Harrington-Odedra’s dark and seductive adaptation of Shakespeare’s Richard III is a fitting tribute to the bard in the 450th anniversary year of his birth.

Many would agree that Bill Shakespeare’s words are timeless, and therefore should easily lean against any modern backdrop. But to do so convincingly and with a certain degree of class is rather difficult to achieve. Harrington-Odedra also had the task of editing arguably Shakespeare’s greatest history play down to under two hours. Tackling such a beast takes courage, and I’m delighted to say that in this case the risk has paid off.

The small studio space of Camberwell’s Blue Elephant Theatre lends itself well to Lazarus Theatre Company’s production of Richard III. Audience are welcomed by the ensemble into what feels like an exclusive nightclub, and shown to their seats on any of the three sides of the thrust stage.  The intimate setting succeeds in drawing the audience instantly into the frantic and electric world of the royal house of England. The production opens with lights out, dance music, and our players raving away with only a few strobes and their neon glowstick-bracelets flashing. We have arrived in the midst of a party – peace and prosperity have been restored; Edward IV is on the throne.

ImagePhoto by Adam Trigg.

The only person not celebrating of course, is our villain Richard of Gloucester. Prince Plockey must be commended for his strong performance as Richard; the major cuts made to the script and the lack of any sort of physical disability or deformity do not do him any favours. In saying that, it is clear that Harrington-Odedra’s edits and directorial decisions are intentional and have not been made without deep consideration. Stripping Richard of physical dysfunction, Plockey is tasked with the challenge of winning sympathy somehow from the audience in the midst of his murderous and manipulative schemes, purely through character alone. The result is to consider the human behind the monster, to attempt to understand the heart of the character, free from the bias of perceived disability.

ImagePrince Plockey as Richard. Photo by Adam Trigg.

Plockey’s polished performance may not succeed in necessarily arousing sympathy from the audience, but his schemes and cheeky demeanour do succeed in endearing him to you. He is upstaged at times by the strong female characters he is playing opposite – however this only enhances his human qualities, and the production as a whole. Shakespeare has written some incredible female characters in supporting roles, and sadly they are all too often treated as an afterthought. Not the case here, however – Harrington-Odedra should be praised for breathing life back into the complex women of Richard III. Powerful performances from Catherine Thorncombe as Lady Anne and Roseanna Morris as Queen Elizabeth in particular, showcase the strength of the modern woman that we can all relate to.

ImageCatherine Thorncombe as Lady Anne. Photo by Adam Trigg.

The production oozes with dark sensuality and the stench of sex. The intimate space, cloaked in black, and intense use of lighting allow for a minimalist set – a simple, clean backdrop where we are hypnotically absorbed in to  the soul of each character without distraction. The ensemble are sexy in every meaning of the word – their look, their movement, their voice – a reflection of the upper echelons of our modern society, and on this occasion, we are willingly drawn into their circle.

ImagePhoto by Adam Trigg.

Lazarus’ Richard III is a bold and lusty production which has catapulted the bard’s work into the 21st Century at warp speed. If you love Shakespeare, be sure not to miss it. And if you’re not a fan of Shakespeare, you will be after seeing this production of Richard III.

Richard III is on at Blue Elephant Theatre in Camberwell, London, until 29 March 2014.

I’m back!

Woah… can’t believe I haven’t updated this for 5 months! Yes yes, I know I’m slack…

Truth be told, a lot has been happening – a lot of changes (including the sale of my house in NZ)! That’s right, I no longer have any “ties”! I’ve also been moving around a travelling a lot. But I won’t bore you with the details, and no more excuses – the site will be kept up to date with tour and writing stuff from now on.

If you’re a tourist who has been on one of my tours between January and now and you can’t see your photo – never fear, you can get a copy of it here on my Facebook page.

If you’re curious what I’ve been doing writing-wise, you’ll find a lot on NZNewsUK (including my recent interview with Katchafire!) – and you can see what I thought of the NZ Fringe shows I was fortunate enough to see on THEATREVIEW.