The London Climate Festivals ‘Songs for Nature’ was filmed at the stunning London Coliseum, the largest theatre in the West End and surrounding areas over three days with the crucial intention of raising awareness of climate change. It was free to watch on Sky Arts on 22nd April or ‘Earth Day’.
Directed by Dominic Dromgoole and Bill Buckhurst, it featured an eclectic array of acts, from comedian Rob Brydon to Nathan Evans (of the recent Sea Shanty fame). It also included dance and orchestra and of course an essential thread of activists throughout, with contributions from the likes of Cool Earths Dr Hannah Peck and also Born Frees Youth Ambassador, a very passionate Bella Lack.
The concert opened to an introduction by David Suchet. In some ways he almost looked lost as he stood alone on stage in the vast, empty Coliseum. Making reference to the current challenges in theatre, he acknowledged the ‘hunger’ of an empty theatre and went on to introduce the theme of nature and man’s love of the environment.
Danielle de Niese’s extremely passionate performance was the opening act, singing ‘Song for Nature’ a new composition by Hal Cazalet. With an abundance of stage presence and crisp vocals, she was the perfect opener to the evening.
Throughout the concert facts appeared on screen, related to climate change and news was reported on by various people. Sky correspondent Stuart Ramsay spoke of his trip to the Amazon Rainforest and the fires he experienced. Issues such as deforestation and the changing eco system were important messages to deliver and complemented the artistic side of the evening.
In stark contrast, Marcelino Sambé, principal at The Royal Ballet, performed a solo energetic dance that was simple yet powerful. Performing in an empty theatre on a dimly lit stage it was emotional to watch.
With too many acts to highlight individually, Queens Brian May and musical theatre actress Kerry Ellis performed the well- known Amazing Grace. It was a superb performance and Ellis’s vocals were as always faultless and May was the perfect accompaniment.
The English National Opera (ENO) choir performed Will Todds ‘Renewal’. This was a sombre and meaningful song in which the blended voices of the choir seemed almost haunting against the backdrop of a dimly lit stage.
Whilst I was familiar with Wellerman Sea Shanty song, Nathan Evans performance was undoubtedly enhanced by the ENO chorus. The best version I have heard and so suited to the evening.
Rob Brydon was the surprise of the night for me. Singing Billy Joel’s ‘Lullaby,’ he was seen to be emotional on stage. It was a song that clearly was meaningful for Brydon. The orchestral accompaniment was perfect.
Musical Director Stephen Higgins must be applauded for a seamless order and Paul Anderson, lighting designer, also must be acknowledged for exceptional lighting. With very little bright light, the stage at the Coliseum enabled the acts themselves to shine.
With the diverse array of performers, news snippets, spoken verses from classic environmental texts as well as music, song and dance the evening did not flow but it many ways it was not meant to flow, for the one thing that brought everything together was the very clear message related to the importance of acknowledging climate change. The eclectic nature provided a feeling of the fact that climate is everyone’s business and is not exclusive to one group.
The London Climate Festival is a wonderful example of all that is positive when a key message through both art and activism is delivered collectively. It would encourage the most sceptical of individuals to potentially think a little more about the issue of climate change. The Executive Producer of the festival itself, Janie Dee, comments that in a year like no other we have all realised the preciousness of life- and this was undoubtedly the key message to this wonderful festival.
London Climate Festival Songs for Nature left me with a feeling of hope for the future for sure.
Reviewer: Angela Kelly
Reviewed: 22nd April 2021
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★