A long-awaited public return to the acoustic guitar for Hadley Fraser, and once again he doesn’t disappoint.
It’s been two years since his last showcasing of original works and exquisite selection of covers back at the St James Theatre in February 2014, but the excited chatter pre-show from the crowd showed that time has not dampened enthusiasm for his music gigs.
No doubt many present at the Orange Tree Theatre – a lovely venue in Richmond and one which I will be dropping in on again – will have been able to see Hadley in the various productions he has been involved with since his last music performance, most notably City of Angels at the Donmar, and the soon-to-be-ending run at the Garrick, where he is involved in both productions the Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company are performing in rep – The Winter’s Tale and Harlequinade. But despite the appreciation of his deserved success as an actor in a string of high-profile shows, there is more than ample demand to see him perform onstage as himself with guitar – mic is optional, as he proved with a fantastic unplugged finale, wandering around the stage area, performing to the audience surrounding him on all four sides.
As a solo performer he served up a number of his well-loved self-penned songs from his EP, Just Let Go, effortlessly blending in some Ray Charles and Bob Dylan to the delight of the audience. When joined by his guests, Dougal Irvine and Ramin Karimloo, the combination of the three was an absolute delight. Pairing up with old Sheytoons partner Ramin to perform several of their original songs, additionally surprising the audience with an unexpected duet of Bring Him Home, provided some of the high points of the evening.
The easy chat between the three as they discussed what songs to perform next was almost as enjoyable as the music. Listening to people play because they love to play is one of the great joys. It felt like a low-key jamming session at someone’s house, and the vibe really suits Hadley’s style. Couple that with a few stories shared from their youth (Dougal and Hadley were at university together) and professional theatre experiences (Ramin and Hadley have crossed paths several times – notably perfoming as nemeses in Phantom of the Opera and Les Misérables).
The night, as always, ended too soon, but the audience trailed out happy. I’ve long been an admirer of both Ramin and Hadley separately, but in harmony I cannot think of any superior pairing. Their original pieces suit the strength of Ramin’s vocals and the richness of Hadley’s. Just perfection, and I could listen to those two play all day. Dougal Irvine is someone relatively unknown to me until now, but I will be keeping an eye on his projects coming up – such as his new piece Buskers Opera at Park Theatre this Spring.
For those who enjoy the work of Ramin, he himself is hosting two shows in Islington (19th and 20th January) and Hadley will be appearing as a guest on the second show. This promises to be much fun too.