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Damien Barber returns to Norfolk roots with festive show mixing folk and hip hop

PUBLISHED: 10:43 07 December 2017 | UPDATED: 10:50 07 December 2017

The Lock In 'Christmas Carol' is at Norwich Playhouse on December 9. Photo: Bryan Ledgard

The Lock In 'Christmas Carol' is at Norwich Playhouse on December 9. Photo: Bryan Ledgard

Bryan Ledgard

Lock In ‘Christmas Carol’ promises a specially selected seasonal repertoire and a “slightly unhinged” approach to the family friendly festive show from show headed by musician who grew up on the Norfolk folk scene.

The Lock In 'Christmas Carol' is at Norwich Playhouse on December 9. Photo: Bryan LedgardThe Lock In 'Christmas Carol' is at Norwich Playhouse on December 9. Photo: Bryan Ledgard

Half gig, half dance show and half panto, the BBC Folk Award winning team of musicians and dancers, founded by Damien Barber, and renowned for mixing folk and hip hop dance, are bringing their festive show of live music, song and dance.

Featuring the folk powerhouse The Demon Barbers and artists from Breaking Tradition Dance Company, The Lock In ‘Christmas Carol’ promises a specially selected seasonal repertoire and a “slightly unhinged” approach to the family friendly festive show.

The show, which arrives at Norwich Playhouse on December 9, and marks a return to his Norfolk roots for Damien Barber, is a seasonal spin-off for the company’s Lock In shows, which mix folk music with traditional dancing and hip hop.

The Lock In 'Christmas Carol' is at Norwich Playhouse on December 9. Photo: Bryan LedgardThe Lock In 'Christmas Carol' is at Norwich Playhouse on December 9. Photo: Bryan Ledgard

Norfolk-raised musician Damien has spent the past decade or more touring with his high-energy ‘maverick English folk’ collective of diverse musicians who mix English folk music with contemporary styles including hip hop, house music, funk and ska and even drum n bass.

He argues hip hop is the folk music of its day, an idea that probably has purists spluttering into their pints of real ale, but anyone who finds the idea ridiculous has obviously never seen the work of his collective.

His hugely acclaimed Demon Barber Roadshow, which also saw traditional and not-so traditional dancers team up for a fusion of clog dancing and break-dancing, won best live act in BBC2’s 2009 Radio 2 Folk Awards.

The Lock In 'Christmas Carol' is at Norwich Playhouse on December 9. Photo: Bryan LedgardThe Lock In 'Christmas Carol' is at Norwich Playhouse on December 9. Photo: Bryan Ledgard

That experimental show, gave Damien, who was brought up in North Walsham and Norwich but is now based in Yorkshire, the impetus and confidence to develop the idea further with the full-scale theatre show Time Gentlemen Please.

Set in a pub called The Fighting Cocks, the show was a musical fusion of folk dance and street dance. Sword dances are performed with snooker-cues, pub bouncers dance the Morris and B-Boys flirt with clog girls.

The Christmas spin-off follows up the theme with a seasonal twist. It’s Christmas Eve and the regulars of The Olde Fighting Cocks are excited about the night ahead, it’s going to be the folk and hip hop dance party of the year. But to their dismay the landlady, Jasmineezer Scrooge, has more profitable ambitions and is preparing to launch her new business, Jazzles nightclub.

The Lock In 'Christmas Carol' is at Norwich Playhouse on December 9. Photo: Bryan LedgardThe Lock In 'Christmas Carol' is at Norwich Playhouse on December 9. Photo: Bryan Ledgard

Cheap alcopops and mind-numbing bass beats are all in danger of alienating the locals and ruining Christmas. Fortunately, some insightful souls are at hand to lead her back to her senses.

“Those that have seen the Lock In will know that it’s a music and dance show exploring the clash and eventual fusion of traditional and contemporary dance styles,” said Damien. “On deciding to make a Christmas version of the show we thought the story should play a much more important role and that Dickens’ classic tale would be perfect for festive family audiences.

“With that in mind we set out to find a script writer. We recently made a pilot for our Children’s show The Sleepover and spent a day work-shopping with Wendy Harris – artistic director of children’s theatre company Tutti Frutti, and she put us in touch with writer and actress Stacey Sampson.

The Lock In 'Christmas Carol' is at Norwich Playhouse on December 9. Photo: Bryan LedgardThe Lock In 'Christmas Carol' is at Norwich Playhouse on December 9. Photo: Bryan Ledgard

“We met up and spent the day trading ideas and storyboarding the show. She was keen to get stuck in and after a couple of days we were presented with a wonderfully magical and poetic script.”

Damien’s career in folk music started almost 30 years ago when he became a finalist in BBC Radio 2’s ‘Young Tradition Award’ in 1989.

He was brought up in the Norfolk folk scene due to his father, Mike, a fine singer in his own right, being involved in the Orchard Gardens Folk Club in North Walsham. Some of England’s most respected singers were regulars including Walter Pardon, Tony Hall and Peter Bellamy.

The Lock In 'Christmas Carol' is at Norwich Playhouse on December 9. Photo: Bryan LedgardThe Lock In 'Christmas Carol' is at Norwich Playhouse on December 9. Photo: Bryan Ledgard

His first solo album, Blass Me, in 1991 saw him invited to perform in a production of The Transports at the Whitby Folk Festival, playing the part of Henry Cabel, singing harmony with Eliza Carthy.

After a spell living in Ireland and recording his second album, Boxed, Damien moved back to England in 1998 and has since been in great demand ever since with The Demon Barbers.

• The Lock In ‘Christmas Carol’ is at Norwich Playhouse on December 9, 7.30pm, £17.50, 01603 598598, norwichplayhouse.co.uk

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