Theatre review: Beyond Breaking Glass, 5 stars *****
Edinburgh Evening News
News date: 22 August 2013
by Josie Balfour
IF nothing else, regular Fringe goers at the Pleasance Courtyard will appreciate Hazel O'Connor's autobiographical 'one woman show' Beyond Breaking Glass for her wonderful musician Cormac de Barra's harp accompaniment.
A refreshing and welcome change to the usual pianist half lit by the glow of the lead's spotlight.
Collaborating musically for the past 15 years, O'Connor and de Barra have been touring with Beyond Breaking Glass since 1998.
What they really appreciate about delivering compelling theatre is that narrative and human interest are the most important elements of a show.
O'Connor delivers her story in a breathy, fast-paced monologue, seldom pausing and always staying on track, there is, after all, rather a lot to get through - the international restlessness of her teens, her punk music career, the death of her mother.
Her story is in turns dramatic, funny and moving. Punctuated by songs from each of the eras of her life she explores, the show is also a beautiful example of the evolution of a musician and their work.
At its core, Beyond Breaking Glass is a pithy morality tale about the perils of fame, the freedom that artistic expression can bring and the rewards of choosing love and family over money.
Run ends Monday
Hazel O'Connor talks Beyond Breaking Glass
Edinburgh Evening News
News date: 20 August 2013
by Liam Rudden
WILL You?, Eighth Day and Decadent Days were all Top 10 hits for Hazel O'Connor back in the early 80s.
The first two came from the sound track of the seminal movie Breaking Glass, which charted the rise and fall of Kate, the darling of the emerging new wave music scene at the time.
O'Connor's own career would go on to mirror aspects of her fictional alter-ego in the following years, causing her to write the play Beyond Breaking Glass, which premiered at the Fringe 15 years ago.
At the Pleasance Courtyard this week, the singer is reunited with long-term collaborator, virtuoso harpist Cormac De Barra as Beyond Breaking Glass returns - but it's not the same show, O'Connor reveals.
While still a candid and emotional journey from her childhood through her life, the end has been re-written to incorporate the loss of her beloved mother, Joyce.
"The beginning of the show is unchanged but the story evolves later on. All the hits are still there, so musically it's pretty much the same, except that we have added the Re-Joyce single, which is now pretty important to the piece."
Re-Joyce is a song that O'Connor wrote for her mother when, in Christmas 2009, she was taken into a hospice, where she was looked after as she fought cancer, a battle she lost the following year.
The following Christmas, a host of 80's pop stars including Toyah Willcox, Carol Decker, Pauline Black, Ranking Roger, Vince Hill, Moya Brennan, Neville Staple and Kid Creole, joined O'Connor to release Re-Joyce as a charity single to raise money for the hospice that had cared for her mother.
"When I was trying to decide what I needed to say in the show, and how I could say it in an hour (the Edinburgh Golden Hour, which is never quite enough) I knew I had to include the most important thing that has ever happened to me, my mother's death.
"I was so awe-inspired by the work that everybody in the hospice did. When mum got the diagnosis, she was given six weeks to live and I said, 'Well I ain't going anywhere'.
"She lived longer than she was told she would, which is also great; you can't ever take what the doctors say, you have to run your own course.
"I always felt guilty about running away and all the things I had done, being a bit of a wild child. Then when she was so ill... I don't know, I just suddenly realised that all the record company troubles I'd had over the years and all that had happened to me wasn't important. What was important was that I had made my mum proud."
O'Connor channelled all her energy into getting Re-Joyce released in 2010.
"The proudest moment I ever had was getting those 80s singers together to record the song that I had written for her. I remember fighting to get HMV to put the record in their local shop, dealing with a young manager who didn't know me from Adam because he was only 22.
"He refused me initially and I got really feisty and said, 'Well see how you like it when your mum or nan is dying in the hospice...' and the next moment he relented. Doing something for somebody else, for a charity you believe in, brings out a different kind of fight in you. That was good for me."
"It was difficult for us because my mum was like Cormac's second mum too. There was a little poem she left for me and my brother and it's very, very heavy going. It's not meant to be, it's meant to help us move on with our lives, but all the way through it Cormac and I were almost in tears."
It's been a decade and a half since Beyond Breaking Glass debuted in Cafe Graffiti on Mansfield Place, but O'Connor feels the show has finally come full circle.
"To be honest, I never imagined we'd still be doing it," she says, "and it's wonderful that we are doing it at the Pleasance because, all those years ago we used to walk past the Pleasance on the way to Cafe Graffiti and say to each other, 'It would be nice to play there one day'. So it's a bit like a dream come true really. Sounds soppy, but it is."
Beyond Breaking Glass, Pleasance Courtyard, until 26 August, 5.30pm, £15-£17.50, 0131-226 0000
and the BLUJA PROJECT in PARIS
Emotion and generosity
News date: 27 September 2010
Theatre de Nesle, Paris, Saturday, September 25, 18 h. A small side road nestled in the historic
heart of the capital not far from the Seine. A few handfuls of spectators are waiting patiently
in the lobby. Here, no need for a security service. Two imposing Melanesian statues flank the entrance
and they alone are sufficient enough to intimidate any troublemaker. Conversations strike up quite
naturally. One, a fan from the very beginning, has brought his vinyl copy of "Breaking Glass" to be
autographed after the show. Another sports a magnificent silver mohican haircut that would surely not
have displeased Kate, the punk portrayed by Hazel in the film that revealed her to the world. The theatre
people are cool. Who said that Paris was a city in a hurry? Here, we could almost forget the passing of
time and, indeed, is it possible that thirty years have passed since the release of "Breaking Glass"?
In this historic building, the theatre is located in the basement. We descend an imposing stone staircase
to the small intimate venue with 80 seats and make our way to the stage located below. Soon afterwards,
three pretty blondes dressed in black burst onto the tiny stage. Clare Hirst, former saxophonist with
David Bowie, and Sarah Fisher, former pianist of the Eurythmics, precede Hazel by a few steps.
The concert begins. "Tonight, we decided to play more songs from "Breaking Glass" because it is the
thirtieth anniversary of the movie" explains Hazel. The latter is a little like Piaf in the realism
with which she lives her songs. The acoustics are exceptional, similar to that of a chapel in Brittany.
The hits keep coming, one after another, Hazel taking care to explain, with humour, and sometimes in a
French a little approximate, but no matter, the genesis of each song. Emotion is the order of the day,
especially when singing her worldwide hit, "Will you", supported by a sensuous sax solo by Clare Hirst.
The audience applauds wildly, and sings when asked to join in. The voices of the trio are in perfect
harmony. Hazels voice, raucous and slightly husky, half-way between Marianne Faithfull and Térez Montcalm,
is enriched with the warm and deep voice of Sarah Fisher and the crystalline voice of Clare Hirst.
The complicity between them is obvious. Naturally charismatic and generous, Hazel leads the way but never
monopolises all of the limelight. On several occasions, she even leaves the stage or steps aside from
her spotlight to allow the public to fully appreciate in their own right the performances of her two
accompanists. After two encores performed to a general euphoria, it's already time, alas, to go back to
the surface (both literally as figuratively). But it's not finished yet. When we return to the lobby,
the three musicians are already there to greet their audience of an evening. The trio demonstrate an
exceptional availability to all. Then a few photo shoots before Hazel draws from a carton some gifts to
distribute to her faithful fans. Did I already mention generosity?
"The Bluja Project"
The sweet revenge of Hazel
Memory of a dark room in 1980 in Tahiti. I was 13, she had to have 25. I came out of the cinema forever
moved. Hazel O'Connor, for it is her in question, burst onto the big screen in "Breaking Glass", a film
directed by Brian Gibson, where she played the leading role and which enabled her to receive at Cannes
her first standing ovation. This cult film of the 80s had made her an icon in a few short months. It has
to be said that in addition to (good) acting, the young artist at the same time wrote the entire soundtrack.
It was the first time in history, a soundtrack was composed, written, and performed by a woman. A stroke
of genius for a first attempt!
At least five tracks on this soundtrack have enjoyed international success: "Eighth Day", "Calls The Tune",
"Writing on the Wall", "Give me an inch" and especially "Will you" whose saxophone solo still echoes in
many hearts today!
Since then, Hazel O'Connor has not known just success. Some problems with her record company could have
even incited her to change profession. But the hard times, after all, were short-lived. Hazel hung in
there with a beautiful perseverance. On the small screen, she has acted in a successful British series
called "Fighting back". Musically, she never stopped touring.
Notably she presents, alongside the harpist Cormac De Barra, her autobiographical show "Beyond the
Breaking Glass" which was very well received by the critics. With her rock band from Coventry,
"The Subterraneans", she regularly performs the hits from "Breaking glass" and songs from her albums:
"Sons and Lovers", "Cover plus", "Smile". A double live album recorded at Brighton "Fighting back" was
published in 2005. Among her other albums, are "Hidden Heart" featuring collaborations with Rob Reynolds
and Clannad's Moya Brennan and a compilation, "A singular collection", which came out in 2006.
In 2009 Hazel also participated on the "Here and Now" tour of UK stadiums alongside international stars
such as Kid Creole, Kim Wilde or Midge Ure (Ultravox).
Meanwhile, she has also teamed up with two other experienced artists , the saxophonist Clare Hirst
(who has performed with, among others, the Bellestars, the Communards and David Bowie) and the pianist
Sarah Fisher ( Eurythmics, Sax in the city ) to form the "Bluja Project". In addition to revisiting Hazels
biggest successes blues-jazz style, the trio delivers a sensual interpretation of timeless standards,
like "Summertime", "Stormy Weather" or "God Bless The Child". A first album, "The Bluja Project" has already
emerged this year, and "a second is already in preparation" assures Sarah Fisher.
Translated from an article written by Jean-Noël POTIN,
Journalist "Le Télégramme", 27th September 2010.
The original article can be seen here:
HIDDEN HEART IRISH REVIEWS
Hidden Heart was in Hot Press's 2005 TOP 10 of Folk Albums
News date: 02 November 2005
On Hidden Hearts opening track, Acoustically Yours, Hazel O'Connor could well be auditioning
for Shane's spot in The Pogues, such is the sturdiness and earthy expression of her voice on a track
that combines Irish melodies with an eastern feel to marvellous effect.
The touching I'll See You Again also has a solid rhythmic pulse, on which O'Connor's voice
veers towards a more maidenly approach. Who Will Care? meanwhile is an aching and thought-provoking
song about the drug overdose of a friend.
Some delicious bluesy organ playing brightens up the solid Loveable, Perfect Days has an
urgent rhythm to it, and Moya Brennan adds her trademark presence to the wistful Hidden with its
echoes of the restrained side of Sinéad O'Connor. The duet with Rob Reynolds in Tell Me Why could be
a real winner too.
All twelve songs are at least part-penned by Hazel, and Cormac de Barra's electric harp is a
regular and moving presence, especially on the Indian-bodhrán influenced End Of My Days.
Martin Rushent's production keeps the focus on the tunes and O'Connor's songs make a cohesive
blend for an album that works as a total musical experience best sampled whole.
Jackie Hayden, Hot Press
Rating: 7 / 10
Ireland on Sunday
News date: 06 November 2005
Hazel puts her own spin on traditional music in the good company of Moya Brennan and master harpist
Cormac De Barra... its primal and raw in places sounding like Marianne Faithful backed by Kila..
the stand out track is "Who Will Care"
Danny McElhinney, Ireland on Sunday.
News date: 03 November 2005
That unmistakeable burnt rasp of a voice sounds just as good on the folkier numbers here as it does
on more mainstream offerings like the soulful "Tell Me Why" sung as a duet with labelmate Rob Reynolds
and "If Only" featuring Tony Dangerfield of the Subterraneans...
Sarah McQuaid, Evening Herald.
BEYOND THE BREAKING GLASS REVIEWS
Hazel O'Connor is breaking new ground with her stage show
"Beyond the Breaking Glass"
In words and music, Eighties icon Hazel O'Connor takes us on an emotional journey from her
childhood, through her triumphs and tribulations of the Eighties right up to the present day. Her
candid and moving account details the highs and lows of a career that had her catapulted into stardom
after gaining the starring role in the film "Breaking Glass". Hit songs followed, but so did the problems.
Having now returned to her Celtic roots and demonstrating, throughout her performances, a
philosophy that has marked her out as a truly great survivor, Hazel reenacts scenes from her past
and performs many of her self-penned songs with musicians Cormac DeBarra and Mario N'Goma, including
the hits Will You, Eighth Day, Blackman and Decadent Days.
"The show was the highlight of The Edinburgh Festival."
- The Scotsman.
"Five star performance"
- The Guardian.
"Beyond The Breaking Glass establishes Hazel O'Connor as much more than an 80's icon. If you ever get
the chance to see her, don't think twice... just go!?"
- Edinburgh Central Telegraph.
"Her voice is a female amalgam of Rod Stewart, Leonard Cohen and Tam White - with a touch of Eartha
Kitt - but it remains her own, unique and unforgettable"
- The Scotsman.
"I felt I had seen a true artist perform, which is something you can't say very often in these days
of Steps and Spice"
- East Anglian Times.
"O'Connor's superb singing voice and musicianship goes far beyond the punk style with which she made
- The Stage.
"She had the audience wrapped up in her pocket, as they enthusiastically demanded an encore"
- The Backroom.
"In my wildest dreams I could never have imagined hearing Calls The Tune and Eighth Day accompanied
by a harp - but it worked... sell-out audience on their feet for three standing ovations..."
- Jersey Evening Post.
"O'Connor is obviously going back to the folk origins of her balladry to remake herself
as a singer, after the terrible disappointments of stardom. It is certainly working.
- Irish Times.
I Give You My
The Bluja Project