Black Matter by Giles Terera
As if Giles Terera isn’t talented enough, as demonstrated by his tour du force performance in Hamilton, it turns out he is also a songwriter and has written a new song cycle called Black Matter. It was composed during summer’s lockdown and performed at Crazy Coqs and I was lucky enough to have a frontrow seat…from my sofa.
The show is an hour long with a variety of musical styles and influences. Interestingly enough, despite Terera being a musical theatre performer none of them fall within the typical musical theatre strain but sit more in the jazz and blues category. Whilst the music style is varied the theme is strong and that is one that focuses on the lives of black people living in London today. Whilst there were songs about a variety of topics from family to the police the overarching message always returned to the experience of a black person. There was a lot of food for thought within the songs, so much so that at times I found myself nodding in agreement, other times musing over the lyrics and then often just simply enjoying the song itself.
Despite the clear political undertones the song cycles never felt overtly preachy and instead Terera leant heavily into storytelling to get his point across. Each song told a different story and we met a variety of different people along the way, from a black man incorrectly accused in Soho to a out of work performer during the pandemic. to Terera’s own family. The characters were all drawn with love and attention and it is the spirit of them that captured the imagination so well.
The show is very much a one man show with Terera not only singing but also accompanying himself on either piano or guitar. It shows that he is not only a talented singer but a talented musician as well, with him looking very at ease on both instruments.
It is the type of show that would benefit from a live audience and from being in the room to hear it. As there was so little conversation from Terera and no audience to bounce of from it felt more like putting an album on and listening to it than it did watching a concert. As he was performing it as a song cycle rather than a concert I appreciate that patter and anecdotes would not be appropriate
Black Matter shows that Terera is not only a great performer who can write songs but he also has a political conscious and his finger right on the pulse of what matters at the moment.
The show is streaming from the 24th – 31st March and tickets are £12. You can buy tickets and find out more here.
If you liked this review you might also be interested in my article on why amateur theatre is racist. You might also like my review of David Badella’s Crazy Coq’s concert and the West End Musical Drive in concerts.