THEATRE REVIEW: Black Matter starring Giles Terera

WORTH A LOOK?: ****

WHERE?: Le Crazy Coqs, Soho, London

WHEN? Friday 26 March 2021, available to 31 March 2021

HOW TO WATCH?: via Fane Productions, tickets RUNTIME: 60 minutes

Terera won an Olivier Award in 2018 for Hamilton and we know all about his West End pedigree thanks to seeing him in shows as diverse as Rosmersholm (Duke Of York’s), Pure Imagination (Other Palace) and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (National Theatre).

  • Read on for reasons including how Terera stepped aside to enable 1 of the theatrical performances of last year

But we had no idea that he was a singer/songwriter and here he performs a song cycle that he wrote himself inspired by living in Soho, London, during lockdown in 2020.

We weren’t expecting a great deal because we’d no idea of the standard of his own self-penned work but this draws on the anger of the Windrush generation finding they were no longer welcome in the country they had chosen to call home, the survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017 feeling their Government does not care for them and the more recent Black Lives Matter protesters concerned about the impartiality of the police.

Terera sings beautifully, barefoot and while strumming his guitar and later seated at the piano. During the opening title track he sings: ‘London Bridge is falling down, that’s the matter’ as he intertwines personal stories including the bus driver who is told he no longer belongs here after 18 years and another woman craving respect but dismissed as ‘just an angry black’.

During The Flats we’re reminded of Grenfell as Terera observes: ‘There are some flats, they have some stairs, the lift is broken but nobody cares.’

Later during the cleverly titled You Have The Right To Remain Terera observes from his Soho home as a woman throws a glass of red wine over two black men who become the focus of the attention of dozens of police as the woman who caused the upset is able to pass unchallenged into the crowd.

The chorus notes: ‘You Have The Right To Remain brilliant, You Have The Right To Remain true, You Have The Right To Remain resilient, You Have The Right To Remain you.’

The upbeat Nikki reminds us musically of Stevie Wonder and it is a song for Terera’s 3 sisters who he hopes for better for.

Terera describes this song cycle as ‘songs of protest and joy and anger and love’ and we’re reminded how emergency surgery last year meant he could no longer perform in the award-winning Death Of England: Delroy last year at the National Theatre.

Both Delroy and Terera’s Black Matter provide a commentary on our world that deserves wider attention and reflection.

  • Picture by Dan Poole courtesy Fane Productions Tickets
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