BREVIEW: Evita @ Birmingham Hippodrome until 24.03.18

 Madalena Alberto as 'Evita' and Jeremy Secomb as 'Juan Perón' / Pamela Raith Photography

Words by Eleanor Sutcliffe / Production shots by Pamela Raith

I adore Birmingham Hippodrome. Granted, I’m not the most well-versed theatre critic, however there is something rather decadent about settling yourselves into the plush red seats ready to absorb an hour or three of theatrical roguery.

Hurling ourselves into the world of 1940s Argentinean politics, it is the opening night for Evita – the long running musical written by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber, that focuses on the life and untimely death of Argentinean political and social icon Eva Perón.

Church pillars and weeping mourners set the scene as Eva Perón’s casket is brought onto the stage. It is during this opening sequence that we meet the three key performers for the evening. Che, played by Gian Marco Schiaretti, is our narrator; sporting a black flat cap, he ponders the true motives behind Evita’s charity and her rise from poverty to political aristocracy. Next is her husband, Juan Perón, who is brought to life with military precision by Jeremy Secomb.

Gian Marco Schiaretti as 'Che', Madalena Alberto as 'Evita', Jeremy Secomb as 'Juan Perón' / Pamela Raith PhotographyAnd finally, silhouetted against a portrait donning the church walls, is Evita herself. Madalena Alberto has had plenty of practice in this role since her critically acclaimed performance in the West End revival of Evita back in 2014, and it hasn’t gone unnoticed. As the lead role, Alberto is simply captivating throughout the entire production – from the sprightly 15 year old who runs away with tango singer Agustín Magaldi to Buenos Aires, to the blonde, sophisticated flame of Juan Perón, her impeccable acting skills pay tribute to the late First Lady with class and demeanour I could only wish to have.

The first half shows Evita’s lust for power, as she slowly makes her way to the top of the social ladder in Buenos Aires. At a time where sexual promiscuity was considered sinful and wretched, watching Evita manipulate various lovers to obtain social power was truly entertaining, especially when coupled with the song ‘Goodnight and Thank You’.

Chorus and Gian Marco Schiaretti as 'Che' / Pamela Raith PhotographyThis rise to stardom results in her colliding with Juan Perón at a charity concert, and after seducing him with the promise of becoming an asset to his career they soon become an item. The stage glides to and fro as balconies are pushed forwards and backwards for different scenes, from the staging of a military coup using musical chairs during ‘The Art of the Possible’ to the energetic choreography of ‘Eva, Beware of the City’, the cast make use of every inch of the Hippodrome stage with minimal props.

Following an interval (and a glass or two of wine) we returned to the reveal of Juan Perón’s successful election as Prime Minister, with Evita delivering a powerful speech as the First Lady bedecked in a glittering white ball gown. The second half passes in the blink of an eye, as we witness Evita embark on her renowned ‘Rainbow Tour’ of Europe without her husband, and her resulting ill health. Despite this, she seemingly perseveres with her saintly actions, setting up a charity and literally showering her supporters with money.

This is where Che truly comes into form – stripping back the glamour that Evita covers herself with, he reveals a woman spurned by political aristocracy who has carefully moulded the Argentinean people into supporters for her husband. Sombre and lonely, he narrates Evita’s life as she tirelessly works to prove herself as a saint not only to Juan Perón and her critics, but to the people of the world. The scenes surrounding her demise and following death are truly heart wrenching – the performances given by both Secomb and Alberto are harrowingly beautiful as Evita laments for the life she could have lived, had she not pursued fame and glory.

True, the production is somewhat lacking in what my mother would describe as ‘fancy stuff’. But that is the beauty of a theatrical piece such as Evita – it simply is not needed. Props and lights could never replace what this cast deliver, which is a highly emotionally performance guaranteed to resonate, to some extent at least, with anyone who is lucky enough to see it.

Evita runs at the Birmingham Hippodrome until Saturday 24th March. For direct show information, including a full breakdown of dates, times and online ticket purchasing, visit

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BPREVIEW: Evita @ Birmingham Hippodrome 20-24.03.18

Evita @ Birmingham Hippodrome 20-24.03.18

Words by Ed King / Production shots by Pamela Raith

Evita runs at the Hippodrome from Tuesday 20th to Saturday 24th March – as produced by Bill Kenwright, with special arrangement from The Really Useful Group.

Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s long established musical comes to Birmingham following ‘smash hit runs’ in London and beyond. Evening performances will be held at 7:30pm every night from Tues 20th to Sat 24th. Matinee performances will be held at 2pm on Weds 21st and Thurs 22nd, with a further matinee scheduled at 2:30pm on Sat 24th.

Reflecting the Hippodrome’s wider programme, provisions have been made of those who are hearing or sight impaired at the following Evita performances: Weds 21st at 7:30pm (captioned), Thurs 22nd at 7:30pm (BSL interpreted), Sat 24th at 2:30pm (audio described).

Tickets are priced at £15-49, depending o the date/time of performance and positioning within the theatre. For direct show information, including a full breakdown of dates, times and online ticket purchasing, click here.

Gian Marco Schiaretti as 'Che' / Pamela Raith PhotographyOne of the century’s most recognised female public and political figures, Eva María Duarte de Perón climbed her way from a socially and fiscally forgotten childhood to become the First Lady of Argentina.

On the way up the ladder, she was also a revered actress, model and radio star – eventually becoming co-owner Argentina’s most prominent broadcaster, Radio El Mundo. And if cancer hadn’t taken Eva Perón at the young age of 33, she may well have become Vice President of Argentina – sitting in office alongside her husband and el predidente, Juan Perón.

Wildly popular with the working classes of Argentina, Eva Perón became to stand as a beacon of hope for the proletariat – having risen up the ranks herself, yet still mistrusted by the country’s political elite and social bourgeoisie. Many argue that it was Eva Perón, standing beside her husband at many a rally and public appearance, that cemented the political progress of Juan Perón from Minister to President. Madalena Alberto as 'Evita' and Jeremy Secomb as 'Juan Perón' / Pamela Raith Photography

But many also argue to the contrary, claiming the often contradictory administration – that would spawn the continuously contradictory political movement known as Perónism – was a merely a disguised dictatorship that only played ‘the people card’ for political gain and even personal glory. It is this dichotomy that Rice and Webber brought to the stage with their musical Evita, when they turned their rock opera album into a West End production in 1978. Forty years later and Evita is still touring the world, with its name sake still considered a ‘Spiritual Leader of the Nation’ after being officially awarded the title in 1952.

This current production of Evita sees Madalena Alberto return to the title role, after playing Eva Perón in the 2004 West End revival. The role of Che, who acts as the story’s narrator and filters into many supporting and ancillary roles, will be played by Gian Marco Schiaretti.

Evita @ Birmingham Hippodrome 20-24.03.18 (featured cast members may vary)

Evita runs at the Birmingham Hippodrome from Tuesday 20th to Saturday 24th March. For direct show information, including a full breakdown of dates, times and online ticket purchasing, visit

For more on the Birmingham Hippodrome, including venue details and further event listings, visit

THE GALLERY: KRS-One @ Hawker Yard 01.10.19

KRS-One @ Hawker Yard 01.10.19 / Aatish Ramchurn - Birmingham Review




Words & pics by Aatish Ramchurn

Hip hop veteran, KRS-One, arrives in Birmingham to close his six date UK tour, for what’s been described as an exclusive and ‘intimate’ show at Hawker Yard.

When it comes to gigs, I’ve always taken the term ‘intimate’ to mean ‘artist playing in smaller setting than they normally would’. But as I look at Hawker Yard for the first time – with it’s tiny, wooden stage and tented roof covering a pebble-floored area no bigger than a local pub – I realise that intimate, in this case, really does mean intimate.

The evening has been warming up with DJs from the monthly Feel the Vibe nights at Hawker Yard, with kids break dancing in the middle of the floor, reminiscent of hip hop in the 1980s, only with a boombox missing.

Maxi Zee - supporting KRS-One @ Hawker Yard 01.10.19 / Aatish Ramchurn - Birmingham Review(It would have been great to have had some photos of the break dancers, but I did not bring my flash with me and the environment was way too dark to capture anything. In fact, I was feeling like this whole night was going to be a challenge, in terms of lighting)

The live sets start at around 9pm – kicking off with Omen, then followed up by Maxi Zee from Germany. They had 15 minutes of stage time each, but it was enough time for both acts to make an impression on the Hawker Yard crowd. At this point in the night, I had enough room by the stage to take photographs, but the moment Trademark Blud came on stage I knew that things would get even more difficult for me when KRS-One shows up.

Trademark Blud, supported by his beat maker and DJ, Tricksta, captivates minds with his hard hitting, politically conscious brand of hip hop. I restrict my photography by retreating away from the stage as more people are towards it. Whilst watching Trademark Blud rapping frenetically, I strategise just how I’m going to take photos of KRS-One in a closed setting like this.

Trademark Blud - supporting KRS-One @ Hawker Yard 01.10.19 / Aatish Ramchurn - Birmingham ReviewThe moment Trademark Blud leaves the stage, I make my way forwards and occupy the small gap left between the audience and the front of stage by squatting there. This spot is mine. And whilst I may make this sound uncomfortable, the truth is that it feels very relaxed; Hawker Yard just has a really friendly vibe, much like a community where you are simply made to feel welcome.

The man of the night, KRS-One, takes to the stage. Wildly glaring at the audience, and looking to make this a big night as Birmingham is the city he is closing his UK tour with. I take as many shots as I can before he even begins his first song, as I know it’s going to get rowdy as the night progresses.

KRS-One points to the area I’m occupying and says “It’s empty here” encouraging the audience to move closer to him, which they do with little hesitation. I spring up like a meerkat to avoid being trampled on, but I’m very much stuck in between people, all with their phones held high, capturing the moment that they were all standing right next to KRS-One.KRS-One @ Hawker Yard 01.10.19 / Aatish Ramchurn - Birmingham Review

I’m smiling throughout all this, mainly because I’ve never had this experience as a photographer; as if the low light wasn’t challenging enough, try getting any clear shots of an artist when squeezed in between so many fervent fans.

Wanting to get a few more crowd shots I retreat from the front, checking at the images at the back of my camera to make sure I’m happy with what I’ve got, as once I’m out there will be no return. And I had expected ‘Sound of Da Police’ (taken from KRS-One’s first album, Return of the Boom Bap) to be left until last, but fortunately for me it wasn’t so I could take my leave from the front after that.

But the whole idea of being a concert photographer is capturing these moments as they are. And that’s what these photos from KRS-One at Hawker Yard represent – a night where there is no stage, or status barrier between artist and audience, but one where a venue is simply united by hip hop.




KRS-One @ Hawker Yard 01.10.19 / Aatish Ramchurn – Birmingham Review

KRS-One @ Hawker Yard 01.10.19 / Aatish Ramchurn - Birmingham Review

KRS-One @ Hawker Yard 01.10.19 / Aatish Ramchurn - Birmingham Review

KRS-One @ Hawker Yard 01.10.19 / Aatish Ramchurn - Birmingham Review

Trademark Blud - supporting KRS-One @ Hawker Yard 01.10.19 / Aatish Ramchurn - Birmingham Review

Trademark Blud - supporting KRS-One @ Hawker Yard 01.10.19 / Aatish Ramchurn - Birmingham Review

Maxi Zee - supporting KRS-One @ Hawker Yard 01.10.19 / Aatish Ramchurn - Birmingham Review

KRS-One @ Hawker Yard 01.10.19 / Aatish Ramchurn - Birmingham Review

KRS-One @ Hawker Yard 01.10.19 / Aatish Ramchurn - Birmingham Review

KRS-One @ Hawker Yard 01.10.19 / Aatish Ramchurn - Birmingham Review

For more on KRS-One, visit 

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BPREVIEW: KRS-One @ Hawker Yard 01.10.19

KRS-One @ Hawker Yard 01.10.19

Words by Aatish Ramchurn

On Sunday 1st October 2017, KRS-One and DJ Predetor Pr!me come to Hawker Yard in Birmingham – with main support from Trademark Blud, Tricksta, Maxi Zee and Omen. Also on the night will be sets from DJ Jam Fu, DJ 6’5, Dek One and DJ Silence.

Doors at Hawker Yard open at 6pm. Early bird tickets are priced at £12.50, with standard release tickets priced at £15 – as presented by Mostly Jazz and Break Mission. For direct event info and links to online ticket sales, click here.

With a career spanning over three decades, Lawrence ‘Kris’ Parker, better known to the world as KRS-One, will be bringing his current six date tour of the UK to a close when he comes to Hawker Yard on Sunday 1st October.

Having kicked off at The Jazz Cafe in London on 23rd Sept, KRS-One will be moving out to mainland Europe for several dates across October, before returning to the UK for a final showcase/lecture at The Moustache Bar in London as part of Black History Month.

The World is Mind / KRS-OneSince his last visit to Birmingham at the O2 Institute last year, KRS-One released his latest album, The World Is MIND, in May 2017 – out through R.A.M.P. Agency. Parker‘s 13th solo album (19 including those released under Boogie Down Productions) The World Is MIND marks a career in hip hop spanning over 35 years, one that began in earnest with the release of Criminal Minded in 1987.

Pushing on with Boogie Down Productions after the fatal shooting of Scott La Rock, before going solo in the early 90s, KRS-One is often cited as one of the more influential figures in the hip hop scene. Evolving his style, moving away from the more hardcore and gangster rap, incorporating elements of Jamaican dancehall, KRS-One has also been politically active and community focused since the late 80’s.

KRS-One @ Hawker Yard 01.10.19Following the death of DJ Scott La Rock (who had been mediating between a local gang and the third member of Boogie Down Productions, D Nice) KRS-One formed the Stop the Violence Movement in 1989, aiming to challenge the aggression and internal feuds within the hip hop community.

On Sunday 1st October, KRS-One and DJ Predetor Pr!me will be headlining a night of hip hop and breaks at Hawker Yard – hosted by Mostly Jazz and break dance crew, Break Mission.

The night will start from 6pm, where resident DJs of Feel the Vibe (a monthly event at Hawker Yard) in association with Break Mission will warm up the event, before support acts Maxi Zee, Trademark Blud, Tricksta and Omen hit the stage. For direct gig info and link to online ticket sales, click here.

‘Show Respect’ / KRS-One


KRS-One @ Hawker Yard 01.10.17 (official trailer)

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BREVIEW: Slaves @ O2 Academy (B’ham) 19.11.16

Slaves @ O2 Academy (B’ham) 19.11.16 / By Michelle Martin © Birmingham Review






Words by Billy Beale / Pics by Michelle Martin

Slaves have had such a fast and dramatic rise to stardom that it’s almost baffling. It feels like just yesterday they were a plucky duo of dapper punks with a monochrome Bandcamp page. Now they’re selling out most dates of their UK tour, they’re on their second top-10 album and have had Mike D from the Beastie Boys produce it. It would be baffling if it weren’t for their infectiously likable music.Slaves @ O2 Academy (B’ham) 19.11.16 / By Michelle Martin © Birmingham Review

Openers Shame were first in the queue to play to a dense standing crowd of eager early arrivers. In their oversized 80s-style outfits they look like extras from Weekend at Bernie’s, but their sound is very much on the trend of the current indie zeitgeist.

Twangy single note guitar lines, swashes of delay and reverb with a Fat Whites-esque vocal will likely go down as The Sound of UK Indie 2016 and Shame tick all the boxes in that category. Although they seem to have something of an identity crisis, flailing about in a way that suits music much heavier than they play.

Both second support Life and openers Shame had dedicated vocalists that exhausted all that one can do in terms of waving a mic stand about. Life’s vocalist Mez is like a Northern version of The Horrors’ Faris Badwan, with moves and shapes lifted straight from Jarvis Cocker’s repertoire. Despite having just one guitarist to Shame’s two, Life sound much more like a guitar band, with whammy bar dives and high gain solos scattered between their spat-out lyrics and driving discordant rhythms. Their set ends on a loud and cacophonous number. The bewildered audience forgets to applaud. I hope Life realise that the omission of claps doesn’t mean they did a bad job.

“Bring him out here, I wanna see him” says Slaves guitarist Laurie Vincent, like a punk Caesar with knuckle tats and a Fender Mustang. A stage invader has been foiled – presumably rather forcefully – by the security staff and Vincent Slaves @ O2 Academy (B’ham) 19.11.16 / By Michelle Martin © Birmingham Reviewis concerned. “The security people have got a job to do but, sometimes mistakes are made. I just wanna see he’s alright”. Drummer Isaac Holman is out of sight, presumably intervening.

The Defendant is brought before Vincent. “Do you admit that you’ve been a very naughty boy?” he asks like a Pythonesque Judge. He presides over an enforced hug between the invader and the security staff; Holman returns to his mark behind the drums and the set resumes.

There is a softness to Slaves that doesn’t always manage to come across in their music. They’ve achieved a lot with their format without compromising their sound – primal, angry and loud. There is an awful amount of empty space on the stage but Isaac (shirtless throughout) paces menacingly when he’s not fueling the rhythm engine, while Laurie (shirtless for the encore) almost never stops. Throwing the headstock of his guitar about like he’s fighting off an invisible opponent, teetering on the edge of the monitors and classic moves like Chuck Berry’s one-legged hop.

If the crowd before Slaves were water molecules coming to the boil, they erupted like geyser when tonight’s headliners started. There must have been at least 10 crowd surfers during ‘Steer Clear’, a softer song and definitely not the usual crowd surfing tune. It’s one of the few moments in Slaves’ set where they deviate from their usual gear – flat out. Slaves don’t seem to expect, or want, to be taken seriously, but in these moments where they deviate their delivery is hard to judge. The deadpan of a comedy band, like Flight of the Conchords when they send up a particular genre, feels a bit too close to the seemingly earnest Slaves when they play to a lofi electronic beat.Slaves @ O2 Academy (B’ham) 19.11.16 / By Michelle Martin © Birmingham Review

It’s hard for them to win because their setup is the perfect tool for the full-on, raging, up-to-eleven sound that anything else seems out of place. “You’re so boring when you’re nice”. But the alternative is a flat, undynamic set that lacks variation.

Slaves strike a nice balance, but everybody seems more comfortable with the more moshable tracks. It was refreshing to see ‘Girl Fight’ – mere seconds of anger and trashing – return to the set; it’s an excellent representation of the band because it says so much with so little.

Defying tradition, Slaves finish on newer single – ‘Spit It Out’. An audience member finally makes it on stage and pulls a face before a road crew member steps purposefully towards him, frightening him off. Vincent casts his guitar to the ground and Slaves leave the stage filled with dense feedback.

Slaves live sound is a different beast to the one they showed on either of their major albums. They’re the perfect rock n’ roll band for right now and they’ve pushed the limits of their sound to the very extreme. It will be interesting to see what avenues Slaves go down in future and whether they will sound the same in 2017. 

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