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Judie Tzuke – Songs + Stories – 11 April 2015

Who: Judie Tzuke

What: Songs and Stories Tour

Where: Ravenscourt Arts, Hammersmith, London

When: 11th April 2015

On the opening night of Judie Tzuke’s first UK wide all-acoustic tour, questions were invited from the audience as they will be on every night of this long jaunt around the country.

One sample question: What do you do to keep your voice so strong for so long?

Answer: Nothing. I was once given some vocal exercises but I’m afraid I’ve forgotten them.

And there lies a mystery because Ms Tzuke’s voice is every bit as strong and beautiful as it was when many of this audience first saw her on “Top of the Pops” a few (!) years ago and many a teenage boy fell in love with her. Indeed, it still has that clear platinum sound it always had at its best. Gone are the days when being cast as a rock chick by her record label, she occasionally had to adopt an odd pitch to be heard over the full-on band. Now there is a reassuring comfort about her voice. A full maturity.

The set list for tonight has been changed up from the “secret gig” she played at this very same venue, nearly two months ago, and in the same way there are changes in the band. Graham Kearns on acoustic guitar is where Ben Mark was before and Peter Gordeno (from The Producers and Depeche Mode) on keyboards fills the spot held by Tim Deal last time.

Graham Kearns

Graham Kearns

Peter Gordeno

Peter Gordeno

Also we must mention that last time out, Bailey Tzuke was heavy with child. This time, we are told the little one (Rani) is safely backstage!

Bailey Tzuke revisits her hit "Uninvited"

Bailey Tzuke revisits her hit “Uninvited”

Opening act, Chaz Thorogood delivered, as before, a strong and competent set with some evidence of strong and developing songwriting and a nice cover of Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower”.

Chaz Thorogood

Chaz Thorogood

Song changes for the main set? Well, new songs “Soldiers” and “Venus” are in, whilst older songs like “Sukarita” and “Left Hand Talking” are given the night off. Sadly, one of the highlights of last time “The Other Side” is not present tonight but we gain “For You” as an encore.

Besides that it is the same – “Ladies’ Night”, “Bring the Rain” and “Welcome to the Cruise” from the debut album; “Enjoy the Ride” from her project with Morcheeba; “All At Sea”, “If” and “So Emotional” from more recent albums; covers of “Woodstock” and “May You Never” and a lead for Bailey on “Uninvited” and for Tallula Tzuke on “Heartbeats”. And, of course, the big hit, “Stay With Me Till Dawn” to put the cream on top of the luscious cake. All-in-all, a well rounded and thought out set.

Tallula Tzuke

Tallula Tzuke

All of this broken up by different questions from the audience (although the question about who “Liggers at Your Funeral” was about persists) and different stories.

Judie Tzuke

Judie Tzuke

So refreshing sounds in a delightful sold out venue and vocals which are a marvel at any age. Judie says the musicians on stage and the songs in the set will continue to change up as the tour unwinds so much to look forward to. What’s not to like?!

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Judie Tzuke 3

Shakespearience Too – March 2015

The Shakespearience Too!

This is the latest venture for our own production company “The Shakespearience” which Darren Hirst founded in 2009 to present an introduction to Shakespeare for young people of pre-GCSE school age.

When the Shakespearience first began to work together, it was actors, a tour bus and props but since our own theatre opened, life has been much easier.

The Shakespearience Too - Full Cast

The Shakespearience Too – Full Cast

In the original Shakespearience’s final run, Darren’s health became very difficult about half way through the organisational phase and he had to take a back seat for the actual performances so he’s very glad to be on stage for “The Shakespearience Too” as well as directing and producing.

“One question people have been asking me is why it’s called ‘The Shakespearience Too’,” says Darren, “well, to me it’s quite simple. It’s not the original Shakespeare introduction we did – this is completely new – and the original one was used more than once so this one couldn’t be ‘The Shakespearience 2’. But it’s still an introduction to Shakespeare so it is “The Shakespearience Too”. I thought the title was a funny joke and play-on-words but no-one seems to get it!”

Of the actors that were in the original Shakespearience there is only a very few returning as Darren really wanted to freshen things up and make this distinctively different.
“Richard (Evans) and I will be co-directing and acting again and Perkelt are coming back to do the music but besides that everything else is new”, notes Darren.

Even the line-up of Perkelt has changed quite dramatically since last time around with only founder members, Pavlina Bastlova and Stepan Honc still part of the band which is now based in Fulham rather than the Czech Republic!

The other actors are a varied and young cast with a surprising amount of theatre experience for their ages. All the actors are from the UK except Liam MacDonald who has joined the company from Australia.

“This time we’re exploring the characters in Shakespeare rather than particular plays, so everyone is developing a major character as well as playing smaller roles in the others’ scenes”, says Darren, “it is an interesting format and quite challenging – add to this the fact that really nobody knew each other until we started to rehearse and there’s quite an energy and frisson all its own”.

Alexander Hunt who will play King Lear and Aisha Kent who is Lady Macbeth have perhaps the most challenging parts.

In total, “The Shakespearience Too” uses 5 of William Shakespeare’s plays – “Macbeth”, “King Lear”, “Much Ado About Nothing”, “Twelfth Night” and “Hamlet”.

In addition, there are scenes that Darren has written to link the Shakespearean material and original music from Perkelt as well as them performing Shakespeare’s own ballads including one from “Othello”.

Richard Evans - actor, co-director in The Shakespearience and The Shakespearience Too

Richard Evans – actor, co-director in The Shakespearience and The Shakespearience Too

Shakespearience Too

What: The Shakespearience Too

Who: The Shakespearience Production Company

Where: Ravenscourt Arts, Hammersmith, London

When: March 2015

In 2009, I had a dream. I mean literally. I had a dream. I woke up in my hotel in Stratford-Upon-Avon with a notion that I should start a theatre company that would present Shakespeare for schoolchildren in a way that would be informative, entertaining and educational. I was in town to review a play by the Bard but I have to say that I can’t even remember which one. But I do remember what happened next.

In Stratford there is a tribute to some firefighters who died in a blaze trying to save lives. Near there I heard some buskers trying to gather money for their playing. Now in Stratford-Upon-Avon you hear many buskers but these were good. I mean really good. You can read more about them at http://www.perkelt.com .

Pavlina Bastlova - Perkelt (Woodwinds)

Pavlina Bastlova – Perkelt (Woodwinds)

I watched and listened for twenty minutes and with my dream and the music buzzing around my head like a particularly angry bee, I tried to figure it all out. I returned at lunchtime to find them still playing and when they broke for food and drinks, I approached them to make a proposal. And then found out that they could speak only limited English. Somehow or other we figured out that I wanted to take them out for dinner and bring a dictionary. This was getting crazier by the minute.

Perkelt - Stepan Honc - Stringed instruments

Perkelt – Stepan Honc – Stringed instruments

That evening I hired them to play music for a theatre company that didn’t even exist. Now I was getting way out of my depth. I had a band in period costume with period instruments and great music but no actors and this crazy idea of working with schools. The only problem was the schools didn’t know anything about my ambitions yet.

A couple of days later, I wandered into an art gallery in Sheep Street, Stratford and met a guy called Garrick Huscared who was a little larger than life. He told me about his art gallery which was meant to display only art inspired by Shakespeare and I told him about my seedling idea of a schools’ project. He wanted in. And I said I would help him to promote his art gallery.

Having seen the RSC production I was there to see, I headed home to write wise and witty words about it. I started to talk to schools and found out there was now real interest. It now had a name. I called it “The Shakespearience” – the Shakespeare Experience, if you see what I mean. By now the art gallery in Stratford had closed and Mr Huscared could no longer be involved in what I was doing but I was grateful to him because he had given me a continuation of the momentum that my dream had given me which if it was just me and my idea might have died out a little while ago.

He had also given me the name of someone I should contact who might be the guy to help me to take it forward. Richard Evans. Richard was also a large character but very different from Garrick. He is known for playing Henry VIII and is an interesting and amiable guy. We sat in a cafe in Victoria Station and talked about ideas and actors and rehearsals. A few months later we had a bus, some props, some costumes and a list of schools that wanted to see our cast of 6. It was very successful.

Richard Evans

Richard Evans

We’d arrive at a school get into costume, perform, make the kids hate Lady Macbeth or love Romeo and Juliet and then get back on the coach and head for the next school. It was hard work but fun and very worthwhile. It was very successful but we all knew that we’d probably not do anything like that again.

Darren Hirst performs for a young audience in 2010

Darren Hirst performs for a young audience in 2010

Or at least not in that way. The following year saw work take place on our theatre, “Ravenscourt Arts” and by 2012 it was open and up and running (how we came to have our own theatre space is another story). Unfortunately, my health took a battering that year and after working hard to put together the ensemble for our Shakespearience, I had to take very much a back seat for the actual run. Grim times.

Well, to cut a long story short, my health is good and we’re gearing up to provide a whole new version of the Shakespearience for our young audience as we enter our third season in March. Perkelt are once more on-board and this time with a group of songs from Shakespeare’s canon that they are currently working on. Richard is back once more and he and I will be at the helm.

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Richard points the way forward

 

Last week saw our auditions and we’re putting together the cast. This week, bookings are open and local schools with young people aged 9-13 should get in touch and confirm their seats. It looks like it is going to be a splendid time and we believe that we have discovered some really gifted people – both those with great long CVs and oodles of stage and TV experience and those who are new to the trade but who we hope are going to be stars for the future.

Sometimes you have to work on those dreams.

Goose Chase – December 2014

What: Goose Chase

Who: Riding Lights Theatre Company

Where: Ravenscourt Arts

When: 9th December 2014

This was Ravenscourt Arts’ (a new venue in Hammersmith) first attempt to stage a play / pantomime for families with young children. This reviewer attended two performances on this date – a free daytime one for local school children which was packed and a evening one which carried a ticket price for which there was a good number of spare seats.

Let me give you a brief synopsis of the story line. A Wise Man gets lost on his way following the star and ends up at the home of a sad Baboushka in Russia. The grandma has a goose called Boo as a pet. The wise man is being tailed by Herod’s bullies who wish to kill the child who is to be born in Bethlehem. The Baboushka decides to follow the Wise Man and takes the goose along for the journey, in the hope that the child that is to be born really is a King. All of this takes place in scenes which alternate with other scenes that build-up to the birth in Bethlehem. We meet Mary and Joseph and Ivan, a electric guitar-playing Russian, who is already in Bethlehem for reasons that I wasn’t exactly clear about.

Ivan, the electric guitar wielding Russian

Ivan, the electric guitar wielding Russian

Anyway, the two story lines eventually combine with the goose dressing as a baby in order to distract Herod’s hired assassin for long enough so that the baby and its parents can escape to Egypt. The scenes where the Russian assassin attempts to kill the goose dressed as a baby lead to much “He’s behind you” fun in the manner of a typical English pantomime.

Boo the Goose

Boo the Goose

This is the place where the Gospel of Matthew meets the traditional pantomime and you go away feeling that you’ve learnt something as well as being thoroughly entertained!

The cast was made up of a mere four actors: Hannah Blofield (Babushka, Mary); Ivan Scoble (Joseph, Wise Man, henchman no. 1 etc.); Charles Hanley (Ivan, henchman no.2 etc); and Boo the Goose (Boo the goose). Each played their roles with brightness and enthusiasm and gusto. Their singing skills were a little second division but, hey, you can’t have everything and the kids didn’t mind.

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Hannah, Charles and Ivan

“Goose Chase” is now on a UK tour. You’ll do well to catch it!

Daughters of Davis – October 2014

Who: Daughters of Davis, supported by Lánre

Where: Ravenscourt Arts, Hammersmith, London

When: October 11th, 2014

About a year ago I heard an interview with a fairly major music industry figure who when asked what he would like to be doing if he wasn’t doing that interview, said he would like to be at home listen to the harmonies of the “Daughters of Davis”. Time to find out about the Daughters of Davis, I thought. Located them on the internet. Ordered their cd and dvd (I’m the archetypal guy who like to have the solid item in both hands. Not much time for mp3s here). Nearly a year later, it’s time to see them in concert. Can they cut the mustard live?

It’s worth noticing that both artists on tonight’s bill have a spiritual interest going on. Nothing preachy, you understand, but a definite flavour of trying to trace the paths of what life is all about and some kind of deeper meaning. Now when this is happening there is always a danger that the stage can become some kind of confessional. Whilst the show saw performers becoming a little emotional they didn’t go too far down that road and what we came away with was, first and foremost, the music and music of the highest quality.

Lanre - a new talent

Lanre – a new talent

Warming us up was Lánre who comes via Stoke-on-Trent and Nigeria to London.She carries that Nigerian heritage well and there is little trace of the Potteries. Her forty-five minute set sees her dip into Urubu (I hope I got that right!) but most of the set is in English and is therefore very user friendly. She is a gifted vocalist with a rudimentary talent on guitar which for an acoustic show like tonight will do very well thank you. She features all five songs from her current ep “Home” as well as a smattering of other compositions. Of these “Stone Collector” and the title track perhaps show themselves as the strongest. On some of the material the songwriting seems a little thin and perhaps this is something she needs to work on but all-in-all tonight shows off her talents to good effect. There’s a little flavour of Joan Armatrading here and also something unique. Plenty of promise

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Daughters of Davis need have no concern about the standard of their songwriting. They have 23 songs across their two albums and I think I’m right in saying that they wrote the lyrics on 22 of them and co-wrote the music on them all. Tonight, they serve up a mix from both albums along with a few covers across two sets which make for a tasty feast indeed.

Daughters of Davis

Daughters of Davis

What were some of the highlights (in no particular order…)?

British Soul. Title track from the second album and a real tour-de-force of songwriting and vocal performance. With Daughters of Davis you soon learn that the vocals are everything. It’s a rather wonderful mix. Fern has the more mannered and effected voice. Adrienne is the more straightforward but might be the stronger of the two… just. But you need both to create that effect.

Adrienne Davis

Adrienne Davis

Heart Locked Up. Great little acoustic number from the first album which is captured exactly during the performance. There is a romantic tale behind it that I won’t spoil but there is an ache in the vocal that is so genuine and so sincere.

Catch Me If You Can. Silly bit of lyrical fluff from the second album which manages to capture something of what is charming about tonight. It also allows Fern to become more animated which is necessary to create a little more stage presence alongside the more static Adrienne. As I say, these girls complement each other.

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Fern Davis

Take My Soul. Powerful and poignant number from the first album which captures that spiritual undercurrent that I mentioned earlier. Great lyrics, little pretense and more strong voices.

Footprints. The ladies explained that this one was based on a poem that I’m familiar with. The song is a lot less twee than the poem and, again, it is grounded in such a deep and real experience which is communicated in every syllable of the song.

The River. A great lyric and powerful musical performance. There’s a depth in these songs that you don’t hear coming across in much self-composed material these days. There are some great songwriters out there and some great performers but these ladies if they persevere might just be the complete package.

What else was there? A lot. Great guitar, nice ukelele, strong percussion — and only two people on the stage.

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Oh and let’s not forget the covers. Some Otis Redding, some Michael Jackson (two songs might have been a little too much, one would have sufficed), a little Ellie Goulding and a revamped hymn (yes, that Amazing Grace).

There was a reason why the crowd were in raptures afterwards. One very good performance, one great performance. Good venue, tremendous acoustics. Not sure what more a Saturday night could provide.

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