Gobsmacked, labelled the amazing a cappella and beatboxing show, launched this week at the Udderbelly venue at Southbank as partof the Wonderground Festival.
The Udderbelly looks like a big purple “blow up” cow. It sits amidst the busy chaos of the makeshift bars and eateries all jam-packed into the Southbank area behind The London Eye. It is a fine venue, with the audience seated around the sunken stage area, with steep bleachers on three sides.
Gobsmacked sits well in this venue. The set rising high in a backdrop of large speaker boxes that alluminate in time with the performance; colourful and hip. The cast of Gobsmacked, some of whom were seen in their past show, are an attractive and talented group of singers: Ed Scott, Ayanna Coleman-Potempa, Ben Chambers, Joanne Evans, Matthew McCabe, Ricardo Castro.
Superbly supported by the world-renowned beat-boxer Ball Zee, who earns more than his performance fee, not just for his musical input, but for his physical presence, his humour, and his rapport with the audience. The sounds he makes, particularly in his solo section are compelling and ingenious. The way he led us through his process of building sounds was wonderous. He performs sounds that seem impossible with ease and a theatrical flare. With the help of Hugh Walker (sound designer), Ball Zee insures that Gobsmacked sounds first rate.
The structure of the ‘show’ is a free-flowing collection of songs and medleys masterfully arranged by Jack Bloom (Musical Director) with equal measures of humour and musicality, complexity and fun. The cast of Gobsmacked step up to the challenges set and there are many treats for the ear.
The Gobsmacked show employs a wide variety of musical styles from Pharrell Williams to James Brown, from The Beatles to Gospel; it’s upbeat, musical, and fast-moving. The youthfulness and energy of this chirpy group are it’s greatest asset, and yet, a little more gravity or experience would be welcome. The musical challenges are executed very well but the ambitions of this show are much greater than just a singing concert. The few allusions to character and narrative are a missed opportunity to provide much more depth, and the staging by Alexandra Spencer-Jones, while snappy and energetic, is simply a string of well-used moves with little direction at all. The show would have benefited greatly from a real sense of structure and direction.
This infectious show will surely have a long life, touring the UK and beyond, and with a greater sense of purpose it could live up to it’s aspirations, transforming it from an irresistible musical candy to a serious main course.