From the outset of her post-Pipettes solo career, Gwenno Saunders has been bold and brave and inventive.
Thus she’s the perfect fit to headline this instalment of a series of equally bold shows under the Wonder Woman banner,
staged at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse and next door to the Southbank’s open-air Globe Theatre.
Day-to-day these are venues more used to the tread of thespian feet than the trill of an amplified synth.
Tonight’s show, alongside electro-pop gangs Pixx and Pumarosa, is one of the highlights of a month-long event,
curated by the ever-impressive Lauren Laverne and her online platform, The Pool.
The Wonder Woman series sets out to showcase female artists,
and it does so Reviews / Live brilliantly.
This evening, the gorgeous, tiny, wood-panelled room, usually used for theatre, is entirely lit by candlelight from antique chandeliers,
which – amazingly – are lowered in between each set so that burnt-down candles can be replaced.
When was the last time you went to a gig where what are effectively a squad of Dickensian lamplighters were also in attendance?
At this place you cannot only see the whites of the performers’ eyes, but those of your fellow audience members too. Sat, as the attendees are,
slightly to the rear and left of the stage, we get a front-of-stage view of the show and the three tiers of the audience climbing above us, towards the beautifully painted ceiling.
Gwenno’s songs are infused with as much character as the space she occupies tonight, Gwenno Sam Wanamaker Theatre Southbank each having an invisible yet tangible spirit of their own.
And in this setting her gently mesmerising, underwater melodies excel. ‘Calon Peiriant’ floats along unhurriedly,
coolly, before segueing seamlessly into an almost post-rockesque, apocalyptic string refrain at its climax. Gwenno Sam Wanamaker Theatre Southbank
She is an artist unafraid of invention and of political statement. Of course her songs are sung entirely in the lyrical Welsh language
(sometimes Cornish), but her vocals soar, conveying a deep visceral meaning even if most of her audience have no idea what is being sung.
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