My faith in most things has been sorely tested of late, what with the devilish pandemic and the Satan suckup governance we have suffered for a decade or so now. But just once in a while I feel the call, I heed the call, I am moved by the call and it is right and righteous.

So on a wet and windy November Thursday I take my bike and park it outside the old St Swithins church, now Norwich’s finest Arts Centre. Therein is a man who inspires, and a chorus to salute and celebrate and motivate us all to respect the spirit, the life force, the world that we live within and upon. Reverend Billy (with his Stop Shopping Choir) is there with his dog collar and a rather natty pink suit. The choir are similarly colour themed, and together they bring us a message about our planet, our lives, our world with the joy and intensity of a gospel choir but not a jot of the invisible friend stuff.

Minnesota born William Talen was raised a Calvinist but for a few decades now has blended political activism with rather good theatrical performance. Plonking a message of sustainable life on us has sometimes brought us worthy but dull folk, but Billy takes us through a celebration of life, love and harmony with his fourteen strong choir, including now his teenage daughter with an outfit matching her dad’s pink hue.

The show starts with a few nice songs and a bit of get-to-know-you stuff with the audience. New York activists and Norwich theatregoers may share much, but their perspectives on group participation do highlight a slight divide. Quietly several are thinking ‘we like you, but we also just want to sit here quietly while you do your stuff’ in a distinctly Norfolk manner. But we get through all the meet you group work stuff and move on, and the show gathers momentum as Rev Billy gets into his stride and onto his message. Since my last encounter some five years back the show seems subtler and even a bit smoother, but the core message is as strong and positive as ever, and is rapturously received. Well, Norfolk rapture that is, so a minimum of self aggrandisement is involved but trust me, we liked it.

The Reverend and his choir are pointing their tour bus to Glasgow for COP26 now, while quietly but firmly reminding us that the previous 25 COP events may not have fully achieved their proclaimed aims. This fits rather too well with my own view that I have had about enough of rich, powerful and hugely selfish leaders telling us that they promise to start soon addressing problems that we have all known about for more than 25 years now. But Billy and the choir are more subtle, and hopefully more moving and they leave us all uplifted, motivated and optimistic that together we can make a better world for ourselves. I am a believer.

© Julian Swainson, Norwich Eye,  4 November 2021

Please note: this review was written after the show on 4th November but website hosting changes took Norwich Eye offline for several days so we are re-publishing this review now.