Lockdown review: Turn Up London

Streamed over three nights last week, Darren Bell and Club 11 London’s latest production was a mighty celebration of black talent, set to remind us of the singers, musicians and writers out there.

Planned and devised in a matter of weeks, this concert was beautifully curated by Nicole Raquel Dennis and Ryan Carter, mixing anthems and show tunes with pop classics and thoughtful readings.

Big names such as Melanie La Barrie, Jeannette Bayardelle (so superb in last year’s Shida, here with a piece filmed remotely hinting as the current parademic crisis), Sharon D Clarke (co-leading a virtual choir), Rachel John, Norm Lewis, Cedric Neal and Clive Rowe rubbed shoulders – at a respectable social distance – with newer names and the “class of 2020”.

Some cast members of Turn Up London

Cadogan Hall, eerily empty of audience, was the live venue for many of the performances – including a vibrant No More Tears, a passionate Glory, and a jazzy Impossible/It’s Possible (from Cinderella, coming to the West End next year). Elsewhere performers sang and recited from their homes, and as the closing number suggested, there Ain’t No Mountain High Enough for these creatives – nor should there be.

The music and readings were well-chosen: Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone and Maya Angelou sat well with pieces from Hairspray, Sister Act, and Ragtime. Stories of resilience, survival and confidence. The charities, too, were interesting – The Bail Project, The Okra Project, The Black Curriculum, UK Black Pride.

Turn Up proved that black voices have a place and a presence in a world which still sidelines them and treats them as second-best. I was touched to see the reactions of many on social media watching a showcase of people who “looked like them”, especially children.

More please, and congratulations to all involved.

Photo credit: adapted from Twitter

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