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The Irrepressibles and Gabby Young & Other Animals, Live Review at the Barbican

A riotously theatrical show in London by these two creative and dramatic acts

Written by Helen Martin

GYandotheranimals2 Kayleigh Bluck
Illustration by Kayleigh Bluck

She strutted on stage, knees rising high and her umbrella twiddling like a fairy’s shield.I wanted to take in the art work that was Gabby Young. For her outfit was an explosion of neck and hemline pomposity, her boots electric blue and stomping, and her right eye was surrounded by a blossoming flower type creation. Her signature vibrant red hair was piled high with blue and pink buns attached, whilst her face looked as beautiful as a doll’s.

GYandotheranimals1 KayleighBluck
Illustration by Kayleigh Bluck

With this visual feast I felt revived from the previous evening’s late night antics at the ACOFI launch party (where Gabby also was), preceded by late night chats with a dear old friend and his girlfriend on the floor of their North London flat. Charlie beside me eating toast, we had spiraled from lively and boisterous to as sleepy as moles. The day had been spent on the Heath, and cushioned with carbohydrates. For the love of Gabby and The Irrepressibles, we had trekked to the utter freezing, shiny, high rise blocked world of the Barbican. And, ah it was a theatrical and stunning evening.

Gabby Young & Other Animals played a mixture of old and new tracks, there were lively jives and ballerinas with cut out megaphones flouncing through the audience. Liberating, FUN and creatively inspiring. We are told that a new song is about someone on stage. It is slow, pretty and meaningful. “I wonder who that’s for” semi-whispered Chaz, “I really like this one”. Me too. It was obvious throughout that Gabby has been classically trained. Her notes range up and down like carefully controlled billy-o. It appears easy for her to produce these notes, and indeed her operatic background serves her folk/jazz genre delightfully. We’re All In This Together brought about suitably pleased expressions and murmurs from the crowd. Its often played slow notes shot up and down my spine, before her voice gently streamed out like a delicate flower opening. It felt like an anthem.

irrespressibles by daria h

Illustration by Daria Hlazatova

Moving on, The Irrespressibles are theatre and gothic glitz. Wearing an enormous and glittery hat from Philip Treacy, Jamie McDermott is basically DRAMA. As the singer, the composer and the spectacle, McDermott has a knack of being captivating to the point of eye locked awe. And he orchestrated the whole event superbly, his stage presence perfectly matching the flashing lights, and blasting instrumentals.

Irrepressibles by Faye West
Illustration of cellist, Nicole Robson by Faye West

The rest of the band both compliment him, but also stand alone as individually beautiful creations. And I mean creations. Each of the nine musicians on stage seemed like a Tim Burton fantasy. Moving in unison and then malfunctioning, like bad robots, they move chaotically about like gothic Toy Story characters. Expressions remain serious and playing, precise and perfect. Each wears beautiful outfits, skimming over bodies with a wink of the eye. See this for a taster of what I mean. It’s INCREDIBLE:

Darkness/light/suspense/breathing/noise/explosion/catwalk – Ooo! Highlights included Nuclear Skies, Knife Song and In Your Eyes. But to be honest the whole set was a triumph. The crowd adored them and the atmosphere was hugely flamboyant and expressively fun. The soaring vocals and dramatic instrument use was just breathtaking. With the emotion of Anthony and The Johnsons, but the Brit extravaganza charm of David Bowie, Jamie McDermott is delicious. With the rest of the band, THE IRREPRESSIBLES are unstoppable.


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