Highlights from Sunday night’s Sydenham’s Got Talent show at Champion Hall, as seen from the Fire Exit.
Your judges for the evening:
Your host is a deeply not-great local comedian by the name of Karl Edrik. Let's just say he's no Terry Wogan. Although a large portion of the kids seem to come from the same "Eyes and Teeth, Boys and Girls!" stage school there is a distinct lack of pushy parents and hissing at opponents that you might expect at such an event; the laid-back atmosphere of Champion Hall (a small community centre-cum-church) helping to put everyone at ease.
Electra open the show. The trio make a reasonable fist of En Vogue's "Free Your Mind" and the judges are pleasantly anodyne in their praise (wouldn't you love a judge to say 'sorry, but you're actually a bit shit?) They're hotly followed by Archetype, a dance troupe apparently seething with boys wearing impressive socks, doing the robot for all they're worth. It turns out that most of the audience are Archetype's mum/cousin/girlfriend so wild whooping and applause abound. They backflip off, and Leah Blakelock gives us "Where Corals Lie" (from an Elgar piece). She has a beautiful, clear operatic voice - so she's sunk. People yawn and fidget as the hall gets gradually hotter. Ms Garvey is rightly lavish in her praise.
Finishing the first half is Kathryn Kitchener, with a lighters-in-the-air, roof-raising "As Long As 'Eeee Needs Meeee" from Oliver. She acts the hell out of it, and is brilliant. Ms Golding (winning the Utterly Irrelevant Comment Of The Night Award) tells here she needs to "wear heels" and starts spouting nonsense about "all talented female singers wear heels" - which must be news to Sandie Shaw.
No talent contest is complete without the power ballad, and after the interval, the lovely Aquila, tries to Beyonce up "Hero". It starts well, but by the middle eight she and the tune have parted company somewhat, but are bravely reconciled by the end. Cue Rupert Caney with an acoustic guitar. He is lovely; a clear, calm voice and a lovely lilting tune. He is the anti-Aquila, and his voice puts us a little in mind of Jose Gonzalez. The judges rave about him.
An absolutely superb singer by the name of Senam Agbesi closes the competition. He looks like Sam Cooke (no, honestly) and he wrestles "The Impossible Dream" to the floor and tells it who's boss. He is magnificent and has the rapidly-fading audience in the palm of his hand. The metaphorical lighters in the air are back out in force and he gets rapturous and well-deserved applause.
The judges retire to the soundproof booth (AKA The Kitchen) for a worryingly short time. A small corner of SE26 holds it's breath as the two acts to face an audience vote are announced: Archetype and Rupert Caney.
Evil judges. Of all the acts to pit against each other, they pick "urban and street, innit!" versus "I play an acoustic guitar and am therefore obviously a Communist". The voting slips are distributed, and the acts return to the stage. Rupert looks like he wants to die whilst the shapeshifting hoard of Archetype bounce around and wave to Auntie. The vote-counters make us wait just that little bit longer, and then the winning act is announced. Archetype are presented with a cheque for £200 and a really big cake from that lovely bakery by The Dolphin.
Words and Fire Exit manned by Samantha Veal
The Sydenham Arts Festival runs until 12 July. Visit the website or, if you’re in the area, head for the Kirkdale Bookshop at Cobb’s Corner, which is the Ground Zero for the festival itself.