The UK Corner

Urban Entertainment from a British perspective

The UK Corner DVD review: The story of Lovers Rock

As the name suggests, this documentary produced by BFM Media and Sun Ra pictures, celebrates the sweet sounds of Lovers Rock. Director Menelik Shabazz narrates a tale of love and romance, which embraced South London in the seventies and eighties. The soothing sounds of romantic reggae sold the experience of immigration and migration, the sounds of the Caribbean on British soil via first generation British musicians and music lovers.

Actors such as Robbie Gee and Victor Romero Evans, Comedians Wayne Rollins, Kwaku, Mr Cee, Glenda Jackson and Rudi Lickwood, Sociologist Dr Lez Henry entrepreneur Levi Roots, author Neferatiti Ife, Journalist Snoopy and Presenter Eddie Nestor, reminisce from an insightful and informed perspective about the unique genre and participate in a series of skits covering its image.

Archive footage serves to educate and entertain about the groundbreaking scene and the network of iconic independent British reggae record labels such as DIP and Fashion Records – home to the late Smiley Culture, notable producers such as Dennis Bovell and Augustus Pablo, and the culture of Sound systems such as Coxon Sound. Viewers can learn about the impact of artists such as Peter Hunningale, Sylvia Tella, Carroll Thompson, Janet Kay, Aswad, Tippa Irie and UB40.

Lovers Rock formed the soundtrack to a generation’s rebellious teenage years as they sought to escape parental problems, and worked up a sweat dancing amid paraffin heaters. But the genre, which celebrated black pride, also witnessed a political heat against the backdrop of police brutality, the SUS laws, anti-racism marches, the 1981 Brixton riots and New Cross fire, which killed 13 black teenagers.

Recreated dances bring back fonder memories for contributors such as Comedienne Angie Le Mar. Recent live footage of performances by the likes of the late Louisa Marks, the late Jean Adebambo, Sandra Cross and newcomers such as Ava Leigh and Alton Ellis’ daughter Lovella Ellis, demonstrate that the genre has preserved its vibrancy and its audiences around the world.

It has some interesting lessons for those keen to break into the music industry from marketing and mix tapes via house parties and PAs, to the perils of contracts as singer Kofi (Carol Simms) of trio Brown Sugar recounts saying she made little money from their hit single I’m in Love with a Dreadlocks, which was number one in the reggae charts while the group were still in school.

The film charts the demand for Lovers Rock as it went from niche to mass market with Janet Kay appearing on Top of the Pops when Silly Games went national in 1979 after spending six months on the reggae scene, and the further triumphs for British reggae in the shape of Maxi Priest’s US success. The film also makes the link between the melodious largely female dominated scene and today’s grime movement. The triumphant film is precious; marking a great British legacy, which is often forgotten by the mainstream industry despite the genre going global (Japan and Latin America) and having shaped the UK’s appetite for future fusions of black music.

The Story of Lovers Rock is out now priced £15.99. Running time: 96 minutes including trailer and scene selection.

Aswad play the Islington Assembly on 31 March.

Janet Kay and Carroll Thompson play the Islington Assembly on 11 May.

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The UK Corner theatre review: In My Shoes @ Soho Theatre

Sitting directly in front of a comedienne can be dangerous, but the comedy gods smiled on me as I escaped the spotlight that was to shine at the end of the evening. At the start of Angie Le Mar’s one-women show, the light is fully focussed on American diva Falushilah Falashilay (Le Mar’s creation from Funny Black Women on the Edge), who is shoe shopping at the airport lounge. Having just arrived, she is in town to promote her greatest hits.

As she stockpiles shoes as if they are going out of fashion, to the beats of Rihanna’s Please Don’t Stop The Music we meet Rebecca Star, a wannabe model on the verge of unforeseen riches at her job seekers allowance interview. Star would love to step into Falashilay’s glitzy shoes and walk through the streets of fame – anything would be better than living on misery avenue with an abusive father trying to buy his way out of guilt.

While some may question the authenticity of Star’s working class accent being married to the financial assets available for her to inherit, it is easy to be moved by the poignancy of Le Mar’s acting as she emotes vulnerability and youthful insecurity with the slightest wring of her hands and limp leg.

Middle class city executive Valerie Simpson has far more confidence, as we slip into her world to the sounds of Beyonce’s 1+1, we see why. With a trendy home and a successful career, she could be satisfied, but the red wine cannot drown out the sound of Omar’s There’s Nothing Like This from her stereo. With only solitude for company it’s no wonder that she converses with her artwork. In one of the funniest scenes, her walls don’t talk but they wear the most intriguing images that mimic the varying targets of her diatribe – her dog, her ex and her exhausted genitalia.

Angie Le Mar kept the laughs coming

The woes of single women are contrasted with woes of trainers geek and peer mentor Dupre McKenzie. The way Le Mar speedily transitions between characters is best evidenced in this character. In a believable portrayal of male ego and teenage testosterone, Le Mar strikes numerous poses as OCD sufferer McKenzie profiles in the mirror. But he is not vain; he is looking for his self. Reflecting on his poor choices, he speaks at a young offenders institute and inspires, until his best friend’s ghost (in Jamaican culture – Duppy) revisits him. As she hits the deck, Le Mar’s commitment in this scene is admirable, with her wig cap on display and her jeans falling down.

But she is soon made over in the church dressing room as Samantha Hide, a jaded actress holding onto the past. Without the necessities for an emergency situation, Hide clutches her 1980s review close to her bosom and occupies the toilets. She ransacks her bag looking in vain for what she has already lost. This character finds Le Mar reciting Shakespeare and you are reminded of her kaleidoscope of talent as an actress.

There were some heavy steps for Le Mar to take

But in addition to acting, former Social Worker Le Mar is a married mother of three (including upcoming comedian and radio DJ Travis Jay), director, presenter, producer, writer, stand-up comedienne of 25 years (she was the first Black British performer to appear at Harlem’s Apollo Theatre and had the first ever sell out show by a female black comedian in London’s West End), and radio personality. The latter no doubt inspired the exclusive interview with Charmaine Lawrence, celebrated lifestyle guru, spiritual sister and author of the book Sole to Heel, on The Brenda Emmanus show. As much as Lawrence rambles, the book, which she plugs endlessly, is appealing if only for the element of parody.

The ‘studio audience’ has one final treat as Falushilah Falashilay returns to play out the Brenda Emmanus Show. Now this is where I prayed that my leopard print pumps would not become the story. God heard me but others nearby weren’t so lucky as shoes were singled out to reveal secrets about their owners.

In this theatrical tour de force presented by her company Straight to the Audience Productions, Le Mar maintains her pace and poise as she walks and runs the miles of six different but interconnected lives. Though only a dance and musical snippet signals a change of character between sketches, from heels to trainers, each shoe fits. Her co-devisor and Director Femi Elufowoju Jnr ensures that her footwear is not worn down. Le Mar as cordwainer ensured that the script was free from cobblers.

In My Shoes premieres at The Soho Theatre from 14 October running until 5 November. Call the Box Office on 020 7478 0100. After touring the UK, In My Shoes will transfer to the international stage including New York, LA and Atlanta, in 2012-2013. Like a female Tyler Perry in her proactive nature, fans can also look out for Le Mar’s pilot sitcom The Ryan Sisters starring Michelle Gayle, Kellie Bryan, Josie D’arby, Eddie Nestor, alongside Le Mar, as well as her forthcoming Internet streaming concepts The Living Room and Angie’s Round The Table. For more information about Angie Le Mar visit her website.

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