Two shows staged at the borough’s major arts centre over the weekend helped to underline how precious the Fairfield Halls should be for Croydon. If only the artistic programme on offer more generally could rise to the local public’s expectations, rather than pandering to the cheap and easy default of tired tribute acts and some less-than-comic comics.
Nick Cave, the post-punk rocker so beloved of Guardianistas and TV drama musical directors, played to a sold-out Concert Hall at the Fairfield on Saturday, together with Bad Seeds’ Warren Ellis, in the first gig on the first tour since before covid, now with two loads of new material to perform, including a suitably angst-laden lockdown album.
As it was the start of a national tour, the Fairfield management got lucky in terms of attracting national newspaper reviewers to Croydon. And they raved.
But the Fairfield, once a venue played by the likes of The Beatles and the Rolling Stones, is now regarded as being off the beaten track as far as credible music performers are concerned.
The NME described the Fairfield gig as little other than “warm-up for this new and modestly ambitious new live spectacle”. Cave told the faithful among his fans that he has two aims for the tour: “to play some songs and not get covid”.
Cave’s “Hello Croydon!” greeting at the top of the show drew “a titter of laughter rippling through the crowd”, according to the NME reviewer. It’s been more than five years since the Fairfield has been open and properly operational, so maybe the audience was responding to the novelty of it all.
Meanwhile, across the other side of the venue, in “The Wreck” performance space, the Talawa Theatre Company has produced its first play almost three years since they were lured to Croydon to be one of the Fairfield’s resident companies. And their new play Run It Back has also won its share of plaudits.
The Stage is the theatrical trade’s newspaper which recently slaughtered the “£70million fiasco” of the Fairfield Halls’ bungled refurbishment. But their theatre reviewer was clearly impressed by what they saw of Talawa’s night club drama. “Every single track is a banger,” they said.
“Take your fans, your whistles, and your flags. This one’s for the culture.”
But two swallows don’t make a summer.
The Stage’s report into the Croydon venue’s refurbishment was especially critical of the uninspired choice of acts by the venue’s operators, BHLive, and so it is that after Talawa finish their run on September 18, there seems little else scheduled on the Halls’ website of similar verve or stature to a Nick Cave or the resident black theatre company’s latest play.
Let’s face it, a Neil Diamond tribute act, simply as an excuse to stage a ‘Sweet Caroline’ pensioners’ singalong – which is about the best that the Fairfield can offer for the next four months – is culturally little better than Boozepark getting “Barry” off Eastenders to do a warm-up act for a bunch of football fans. How long before Roy “Chubby” Brown returns?
And Croydon is London’s Borough of Culture 2023.
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