Interview: Gabrielle

Gabrielle has always come across as being down to earth and warm-hearted, so it was no surprise when I spoke to her in real life, that’s exactly how she is.  Easy to talk to, vivacious and full of positive energy it was a delight to run this interview. Gabrielle first became known in 1993 with her hit single ‘Dreams’, then making more waves in the year 2000 with another number one hit ‘Rise’. She now returns, having taken an 11 year hiatus from the music industry, and is making waves with her phenomenal album Under My Skin. In November she is one of the headliners at the Diva Music Festival, hence our interest in catching up with her to find out more about her music, her audiences and why performing at Diva Festival holds a place in her heart.

Interview by Amie Taylor

AT: You’ve taken an 11 year gap from the music industry, how does it feel to be back?

G: It feels amazing!  It’s been a long time and my audience have been phenomenal, the fact that they’ve waited so long, very patiently, I’m doing a lot of shows where I look in to the audience and see people that have been at all my other shows in the past . I’m really chuffed at the response from my new album and it’s lovely to be able to give something back to them after all these years.

AT:  And 11 years is a significant period of your life, how do you feel that you changed in that time?

G: I’m older, as we all are. My kids are older, which is quite liberating and freeing, because my youngest is 15 and my oldest is 23.  Music has always been my life, but my kids were number one and so it’s nice to have that time to focus on my first love, before they came on the scene. And the fact that they’re now older, because if I left them when they were younger I was always worried that they’d change too quickly and I’d be thinking ‘what am I missing’, but now they’re pretty much who they’re going to be. And social media’s changed a lot too – if we look back 25 years there are big differences in how we make music, how we listen to music and how we attract audiences – but I’m embracing it all. 

AT: And what do you feel the biggest change has been with the music industry?

G: For me it’s the social media interaction with your audience, before you’d do the press stuff, but now we have to upload videos, we can be more interactive with the fans; back in the day being interactive with the fans was bringing them onstage and answering fan mail. Now it’s tweets, you do a show, step off stage and you can get everyone’s opinion on how you were. It’s quite fun, but social media has many upsides and downsides, I think if you know how to live your life within the confines of social media then it can be fun. I’m not really on social media with my friends, I pick up the phone and give them a phone call because I’m an old bag and it’s far better to speak.  But with the audience you can interact online and I think that’s amazing, I love it. 

AT: So obviously you’ve changed, the world has changed – how has your music changed in that time?

G: It has changed, but not too much though. I think that people are listening to this album saying it’s classic Gabrielle. Musically I’ve changed though, because although I’m doing classic Gabrielle, I’m not afraid anymore, I just ‘do’ me. There are producers on the album, like Ian Barter who did a lot of work with Paloma Faith and Amy Winehouse, he did the music for Under My Skin and Breathe and Every Step – he’s been incredible, and has given me that very classic sound – it’s not traditional Gabrielle ‘Take a Minute’, but it’s still me; it’s been a lot of fun working with Ian.  Then there are also my Swedish Producers Tim Larsson and Tobias Lundgren, and they produced the track Shine, which I’m not particularly known for that type of sound, but the response from my audience has been amazing, it’s taken a life of its own. So my sound has changed, but it’s still fundamentally me, I’ve not gone too left field. 

AT: And what was the inspiration behind your new album, Under My Skin?

G: It’s a collection of songs mostly about my life, with the exception of a few.  Every Step I wrote for a friend of mine who’s going through an awful relationship, and you can’t tell your friend to leave their partner, even if it’s the right thing to do; nobody does anything before their time. It’s also a positive, optimistic song saying things happen in our lives, but you have to recognise the time when that announces itself, I always think that when the stars align – you know, because you make decisions based on your strong convictions, that it is right; you can’t tell someone to leave a toxic relationship, because they won’t hear you until they’re ready to. And Every Step was Born because of that. There’s another song called Under My Skin, which is based on somebody that I know and totally adore and love, and they got under my skin – when I least expected it, which was so annoying! You know when you’re not looking to meet somebody or let someone new in to your life, but they come along, and you find you’re just loving them. Under My Skin was about that.  There are so many different themes on my album, it’s about love, it’s about optimism, it’s about self empowerment; it’s an organic process and my songs have always been autobiographical, or about people close to me. 

AT: You are one of the headliners at The Diva Music Festival this year –

G: Yes, I’m really excited –

AT: What drew you to perform here?

G: I love to share and I love being at these amazing places and perform in front of different people – actually not even different people, because my audience are different, they are different generations – I had an audience member who I remember seeing her from the stage during a show, and she tweeted me after and she was 14 and her name was Gabrielle, because her mum named her after me!  So I have I have audiences from 14 years old right up to 75 or even 85.  I love that all kinds of people come together to listen to my music. And I wouldn’t want to play anywhere else, it sounds like it’s going to be fun and I want to be part of that! 

AT: Off the back of that, I saw that you also played Brighton Pride this year, and I think a lot of the LGBT+ community feel a connection to you and your music – why do you think that is?

G: With the LGBT+ community, I don’t see it as separate, but I know that we all have that fight to have our voices heard, and that’s the case for a lot of people, whether LGBT+ or females or black females.  I have close friends who identify as LGBT and I’m often out and about and go to different things within the community. I’m really chuffed and honoured to be a part of these things. Perhaps the fact that I’m open and I’ve always been me and I’m not your conventional kind of person – I came out with an eye-patch and that made me different from the get-go. I love the fact that I’m quirky and a bit nuts and if I’m being embraced by the LGBT+ community who have such great taste, then I’ll take that. 

I’ve always been open that you should be able to love whoever you want to love, bearing in mind that the LGBT+ community are still fighting for rights, the fact that last year was only 50 years since the decriminalisation of homosexuality is ridiculous – and fast forward to 2018, there’s still people going through struggles.  Thinking for instance about Caitlin Jenner and the fact she’s transgender and that it’s a big thing for a lot of people, and people still want to talk about it in a negative light. I’m always happy to put my name to any cause, people should be allowed to just be, if people had their way me being black and female, I shouldn’t be here.  We’d be back in the 60s like Nina Simone going through the back door.  We all have rights, whether it’s LGBT+ rights, civil rights, they’re human rights. 

And as a mother if my child ever came out, I would be there, but there are parents that aren’t – you hear lots of coming out stories where it’s not been easy with parents, and as a mother I don’t understand how you could subject your child to that, even if you didn’t agree with it or whatever, it’s just not right, you’re meant to love your child no matter what. Not even just your child, love people – your brother, your sister, your co-worker, but I guess that’s still not the case which is why we have to sill fight for separate causes and groups within the community and celebrate when we have advancement. 

Huge thanks to Gabrielle for this interview with The LGBTQ Arts Review.

Gabrielle’s new album Under My Skin is now available to buy online (Apple music and Amazon) and in shops. She tours with Rick Astley this Oct / Nov and embarks on her solo tour in March 2019.

Tickets are now on sale for Diva Music Festival, don’t miss out!  Book here.

 

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Review: Fabric

4*
Damsel Productions
The Soho Theatre, London, until 22nd September

Fabric, a Damsel Productions performance, tells the moving and powerful story of Leah, poignantly played by Nancy Sullivan, and of her search for love and belonging. For isn’t that one of the reasons why fairy-tales are so powerful and appealing? The search for love, belonging, for the elusive “happy ever after”?

Leah is your day-to-day young professional woman, working at a Savile Row tailor, when she meets her husband-to-be, Ben. Confiding directly to the audience, Leah tells us about their first dates: the clothes she wore, the food they ate, the drinks they had, the behind the scenes conversations she had with her best mate, her worries, her desires, her dreams. Anyone can relate to that: the stress and hope of those first few dates with someone you could really see yourself marrying one day, with your prince charming! This part of the narrative also shows how much of our feelings and thoughts we can hide, compromise, and ignore, in order to fit in, to be loved and validated, and get our happy ever after.

Fabric uses clothing as powerful symbols in the action unfolding on this one-woman show: from the dresses worn to dates, and meeting the future mother-in-law, to tailored suits, to the wedding dress, to a long-lost childhood memory, to the dress she was wearing during the sexual assault that would change her life. They remind us of the importance we place on clothes, how they make us feel, how they allow us to hide from others, how others apply meaning to them, but also of the memories they can carry. It is also a metaphor for our fragility, our strength, our need to be seen.

It uses carefully placed props, and voicemail messages from the present day, to shift gears from bubbly and comedic, to serious and difficult, presenting nuances in behaviour, in thought, in feeling. The leading up to the sexual attacks, their description, and their aftermath, are presented well in their complexity, such as the duality of when Leah is presenting information as she experienced it, as well as how a barrister would present it in court, highlighting the secondary trauma victims always endure when coming forward.

It is not a new story, but it is a tale of the times we live in, and the complex conversations the #MeToo movement has brought to the table: what leads to domestic and sexual abuse? What makes the collective almost always turn on the victim, rather than on the abuser? Why are systems that are meant to protect victims, often the ones inflicting secondary trauma? Why does it matter what someone was wearing, or how much they had drunk, when they were attacked? Why are victims always the ones who need to explain themselves and their behaviour? I think Leah somewhat answers all these questions when she says, almost defeated: “I realised…I realised that no one is ever good enough for your sons, but everyone is good enough for your daughters.”

Fabric runs at the Soho Theatre until September the 22nd at 3.15pm, 4.30pm and 8.30pm (Check website for accurate dates and times). Book Now.

Review © Ryan C.V

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Review: Eris

Eris ****
The Bunker Theatre, London

A comic, poignant and occasionally surreal whirlwind tour of what happens when Seán, a young Irish gay man from a Catholic family, is spurned by said family and barred from bringing his fabulous boyfriend to his sister’s wedding. Naturally, Seán plots a devilish revenge.

Cormac Elliott, as Seán, owns centre stage as he narrates us through the frantic action of the show and reveals to us someone struggling to be more of himself as he tries to throw off the prejudices of his upbringing including internalised homophobia and femmephobia. Meanwhile, the other actors played an impressive range of characters. Highlights included Katherine Laheen as Seán’s mum who had the audience rapt as she narrated the excitement of her wedding day and Ashling O’Shea was just epic as the personification of revolution and Sean’s best friend, Callista. Clare McGrath was great as Seán’s protective, prejudiced and anxious sister and Charlie Ferguson did a fab job as multiple dates including a rash-prone Professor and a nervous Tory voter. He was also very convincing as the very straight and very average finance whose name I can’t remember he was so marvellously bland.

Director, Robbie Taylor-Hunt, deserves a small award for the mileage he got out of four mics working as Skype, Tinder, a night club, a four headed grandma and even Cats the musical. Lights, sound and staging effortlessly enhanced the theatricality of the show, with a pair of red heels begging a certain question throughout the play. John King’s writing is witty and sharp and he has crafted a memorable and unique story of growing up as a gay man. There were times when the monologue nature of the script hampered the drama, as Seán often spoke for characters whose voices I wanted to hear, especially some of the Tinder dates who were often reduced to laughable tropes rather than comic characters with human edges (but then maybe that’s more of Seán’s prejudices). I also would happily have watched an entire play dedicated to the wedding itself or even just an hour of Callista make mayhem of heteronormative convention. Otherwise, this was a very fun night out.

Photo © Connor Harris
Review © R.H 2018

On at The Bunker Theatre, London, until 28th September 2018.  Book Now. 

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Review: Antigone

Directed/Translated by Rachael Bellis
at The Bread and Roses Theatre, London (Clapham) until September 22nd
3*

Classic Greek tragedy Antigone gets a facelift in this new 80’s inspired production from Aequitas Theatre, even if this rendition could be sharper.

Fourty years ago, Thatcher condemned striking miners who dared to oppose her will. Set in the Durham landscape of this reality, Antigone defies Creon’s decree to bury her brother; begging the question, who is the real “enemy within?” Thatcher’s chilling catchphrase laid foundation to an age of terror that turned mining communities into outlaws. This revival merely hints at this volatile landscape. So, Creon (a Thatcher inspired ruler) inevitably falls prey to the pressures of power. Creon’s decisions are the product of a woman trying to thrive in a patriarchal system.  Played by Mary Tillett, Creon is performed with subtlety and finesse, like a cobra in a plaid suit. She opposes beautifully against Natasha Ravenscroft’s indignant Antigone; a heroine full of courage and passion. Antigone embodies the ideology that everyone deserves justice, to be treated equally and with respect. Both opponents battle for conscience whilst showing resistance to the other’s views. Alongside these two strong women is Soroosh Lavasani’s policeman character who aims to give comedic rest bite to the piece. Unfortunately, and despite an entertaining performance, the comedy at times overshadows the potential gravitas of this piece.

The costume was a triumph. Well-co-ordinated and grounded in world, clearly showing the contrasts between the social classes and popping against the dark landscape of the stage. This disparity was emphasised further as the stage morphed from being clean and full of potential to being littered; following the narrative evolution of the piece.

The use of music could have been more effective. The transitions were at times too long and over-indulgent. The acapella singing was performed well although seemed random against the inherent 80’s music underpinning the piece. Reminiscent of Billy Elliot’s “Once we were Kings” but without the punch. Particularly when the audience were advised to join in one of the precipice moments echoing feelings of being forced to sing a hymn in church rather than a revolution.

In short, this revival is ambitious; using a small cast in multiple roles to the detriment of the pace, clarity and stakes of this important play. The chorus was missed. The political landscape and implications of Creon’s and Antigone’s actions for the community were unclear. As an audience member this ambiguity made it difficult to emphasise with the principle characters and their tragedy. But this rendition has potential and I hope Aequitas Theatre continue to develop this interesting work. Especially regarding the casting of Creon as female. This pivotal decision helped to pave a more complex narrative, commenting on different versions of female ambition and the sacrifices one makes to be a success.

© K.B 2018

This production is running at The Bread and Roses Theatre until the 22nd September. Book now.

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Review: Hamilton (Lewis)

The King’s Head Theatre, London
***

There is no doubt that the life of Stevenage raised Formula one racer Lewis Hamilton is an unconventional choice for a musical. The acknowledgement of this fact by both the cast and creative team behind Hamilton (Lewis) makes for a somewhat engaging but only sometimes amusing musical.

When the Broadway musical Hamilton transferred to the West End many Brits expressed confusion as to why anyone would want a Lewis Hamilton inspired musical. Hamilton (Lewis) at the Kings Head Theatre explores the strange similarities between the two men, treating Lewis Hamilton’s rise to fame with the same enthusiasm and importance as founding father Alexander Hamilton. Inspired by Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Broadway and West End hit show Hamilton, Hamilton (Lewis) takes the most cherished aspects of its predecessor and parodies its success. Mimicking the music, characterisation and rags to riches character arc in particular – the resemblance is oddly similar.

Walking into the smoky King’s Head Theatre, (a sweltering space!) decorated with flags and toy cars, it was obvious a unique performance was set to be delivered.   From choreography to lighting design, the technical elements of show really showcased the talented creative team behind the scenes, a particular strong point being David Eaton’s music. Humorous lyricism, distinct composition polished with a Hamilton flair excels the narrative in a delightful manner.  These elements displayed potential but it was the story, or lack thereof, that limited the show from being truly compelling.

After the first half Hamilton’s storyline becomes somewhat repetitive and predictable, lacking the conflict and intensity that engaged the audience at the beginning. Fiona English gets some great laughs in moments which break the fourth wall, poking fun at the idea of the musical and the construction of theatre in general and although the lack of an overarching moral and substantial storyline becomes the subject of a quite amusing joke near the end, as an audience we are still left unsatisfied. We are left wondering just how much better the show could be if the story was twisted to include more weight to the conflict our protagonist faces, especially due to the huge amount of bad press the man himself received from the LGBTQ+ community after a homophobic/transphobic remark made on social media.

A particular highlight was the outstanding performances delivered from each member of the four person cast. Letitia Hector (Lewis Hamilton) bought the quite dull media personality of Lewis Hamilton to life, portraying him as a driven, bright spark, probably the character most embodying the essence of the original Hamilton musical. Both Louis Mackrodt and Jamie Barwood (Alonso) had great comedic timing, especially the flamboyant Fernando Alonso, who bought a ridiculously fun energy.

Overall, Hamilton (Lewis) ironically proves its own hypothesis to be true, that a musical based on a title or sole tweet lacks the substance to engage and compel. While that joke may have got a laugh, I can’t help feeling disappointed by a piece of theatre that, much like the sport of F1 racing, after an exciting first lap, quickly became monotonous.

© Harry Richards 2018

Hamilton Lewis is running until the 22nd September. Book Now. 

 

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Travel: Tom’s Field Campsite, Dorset

Tom’s Field, Langton Matravers
Cost: £ (Low £16-£18 p/n for 2 adults in a small tent with car)
Date of stay: Aug 2018

This year we left planning a getaway with our friends a little late for the Bank Holiday weekend, and found ourselves a bit stuck when everywhere was booked up. However, at the 11th hour Tom’s Field very much came to the rescue! Just 3 miles from Swanage, this campsite works on a first come first serve basis – and if you arrive before noon, they say you are more than likely to find a spot. We arrived just after and there was still a lot of space available.

The onsite facilities are basic but perfect for all your camping needs – token operated showers, hairdryers and laundry.  The staff at the shop are super friendly and helpful and were really approachable for any questions we had about the campsite and local area.

If you’re a fan of wild swimming, you’ve come to the right place! Just a 20 minute walk from Tom’s Field is Dancing Ledge, a man-made tidal pool drilled in to the rocks.  The only, and quite large downside to this swim is accessibility, you need to be fairly good at clambering down rocks to reach it.  However, if you fancy and are able to make the clamber, once you’ve arrived it offers a refreshing dip in amongst the bizarrely flat rocks. Not one for smashing out lengths, but perfect for enjoying a gentle float on your back while watching the clouds.

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Dancing Ledge

Another good swim – slightly more accessible in the respect it’s reachable by footpath, but with a half hour walk is Chapman’s Pool.  We went at sunset and took a barbecue with us, which was a bit of an effort to carry down, but once we were there, it was a magical evening; watching the sun go down, having a beer and eating sausages and beans in the coastal wind. There’s also a slipway in to the water, which was perfect to walk down and launch off for a sunset swim.  A beautiful location, and almost deserted by 6pm, meaning we got to have our own private party.

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Deer at Sunset, Chapman’s Pool

For a more accessible swim, Swanage sea front is also lovely, a bit busier as is just a couple of minutes walk from the town centre, but well worth a visit.

Sometimes being outside of the big city, it can be daunting walking in to a pub, not quite knowing what reception you might meet as two queer couples. We definitely walked in to and straight out of a few places.  But one place we returned to a couple of times was The Scott Arms in Kingston. The atmosphere was warm and friendly, there was a mezzanine with sofas which we managed to bag for a mega board games session on a rainy evening – we felt really at home. The food is traditional pub food, comforting, relatively reasonably priced and definitely did the job for us on a cold and wet evening. Another place we felt very chilled at was The Lulworth Cove Inn, slightly more pricey and more bistro than The Scott Arms – the crab mayo was ace (for all you seafood lovers) and the steak pie was the best I’ve had in ages (for all you carnivores) – there are some delicious sounding veggie and vegan options too! This pub was situated just a couple of minutes walk from Lulworth Cove. The weather was fairly ominous the day we visited here, but on a good day, I reckon you’d be in for a good swim!

Fancy spooking yourself a little?  There’s an ominous atmosphere at Tyneham Village, deserted since WWII when it was taken over by the Ministry of Defence to become a military training base, everyone was required to move elsewhere.  The army base is still active, so the village is only accessible by civilians on a few dates of the year.  There are plaques and displays with information and photos on all of the old buildings, and the school room has been resurrected to look as it would have at the time it was abandoned. We arrived as a thick fog descended over the village, and it felt like we were driving in to the depths of a low budget, horror film.  I’m sure on a sunny day it would have a different vibe, though there’s definitely an underlying sadness to the village; the loss felt by the residents that were forced from their homes still reverberates through the forest that surrounds it.

All in all (despite the Bank Holiday weekend weather) this was a gorgeous trip, and one I’d highly recommend – whether for a last minute Bank Holiday weekend, or a meticulously thought-through week away, there’s lots on offer and it’s especially good if you’re watching the pennies!

© Amie Taylor 2018

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Swimming Chapman’s Pool

 

 

Review: Yana Alana: Between The Cracks

5*
The Soho Theatre, London, until 8th Sept 2018

Yann Alana isn’t lying in her show when she says she only has 247 (ish) Twitter followers – and I’m utterly curious to know why, because her performance is one that warrants hundreds – no – thousands cueing up to belong to her fandom.

Peppered with surprise moments that catch you off guard from the very beginning, I can’t possibly describe them to you here, because any spoilers would take away the excitement of experiencing it unknowingly for the first time. All I will say is that there is full frontal nudity and it’s genius, there are songs and they’re outrageous, and there are some accurate truths which will make you laugh and squirm simultaneously.

For those of you that hate audience participation, there is some, but relatively safely so, and as Yana Alana is the true narcissist she promises to be, she doesn’t allow the spotlight to stray away from her for too long. As a performer she’s hugely engaging, possessing that rare quality of making you feel like she’s noticed you in amongst the crowd and that you’ve had a fleeting, but remarkable connection, it’s not something one always feels, and is magical when it happens.

Also a big shoutout to and Bec Matthews and Louise Goh – Yana’s two piece band – they have a small acting cameo, which they play brilliantly, but alongside that perform the pieces they have co-composed with gusto and delight.

Yana Alana toys with the political and other current issues, such as mental health, but in a jovial and lighthearted manner, without losing the impact of her message. So often theatre and performance preach to the converted, where as Yana acknowledges her largely left wing, open minded audience and has made a piece that’s refreshingly delightful in its approach to all of these topics.

The songs are wonderful, from her opening number ‘I’m Blue’ which had me grinning from the get-go; to a firm favourite of mine: ‘Your sexuality ain’t your identity’, with everything else following closely in 2nd place: I want to own the soundtrack to this show!

It’s on in London for a couple more days, and I urge you to get along to it if you can, and if you can’t, please, please follow @YanaAlanaBanana on Twitter- she deserves more followers!

Book Now

© Amie Taylor 2018

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