Keep The Faith Editor, Marcia Dixon, met with British comedy queen and playwright, Angie Le Mar, to talk about her renewed faith in God, and how it is impacting her life.
Through her sell-out comedy shows and plays, radio shows and media work, Angela Le Mar has shared the joys, sorrows, ups, downs, excitement and the idiosyncrasies of being Black and British.
Her achievements, which include being the first Black Britain to appear at the Apollo Theatre, Harlem; becoming the first Black British female comedian to sell out at a West End show; appearing on ITV’s Loose Women; hosting a popular show on Choice FM and other career highlights, have led to her rightly being acclaimed as the Queen of Black British comedy. She is a pioneer in the field, and has carved a path, which others now follow.
After experiencing a life-changing 12 months – more of that later – 2012 seems set to end on a high note for this comedy queen, who is gearing up to host her own show, Ladies Talk, which will start airing on Vox TV (Sky Channel 218) on November 2.
The show, which roughly follows ITV’s Loose Women format, features a panel of prominent Black women, sharing their views on various social, cultural, relational and political issues in front of a live audience.
What makes this new project both poignant and exciting for Angie is that her approach to the show and to her life – in fact, everything she now does – is inspired and influenced by her recently renewed relationship with God.
During the past 12 months, Angie, 47, and married mother of three, has become a Christian, and attends the New Testament Church of God in Lee, South London.
I met Angie at Westfield Stratford, to learn about this exciting spiritual journey she has embarked upon, and how it has affected her life.
In person, she is larger than life, but in a nice, approachable way. She’s also humorous, funny and thoughtful, and I spent an enjoyable few hours in her company.
Angie’s return to faith was precipitated by a personal crisis. She shared, “I was in a real dark place. I say ‘dark’, but it was one of those places that I’ve never been before. Everything was fine, but yet nothing was fine. I kinda shut down. I wasn’t interested in doing shows, attending meetings, seeing friends. The only thing that was making me feel really good was walking my dog and being at peace in the park. And when I started gardening.”
(Even in the midst of talking about her personal angst, Angie Le Mar can’t help but quip that such became her love for gardening, that “B & Q was like a shoe shop for me,” inspiring me to laugh out loud, which I did too many times during the interview!!!)
Her dark place reached a climax last autumn, when the one-woman show she was working on, In Her Shoes, got cancelled for no apparent reason. She recalled, “It knocked me, because it made me feel I had no control over things, and someone could decide, ‘We’re not doing it anymore,’ and I’m forced to go ‘OK then’. I don’t like being out of control.”
The show’s cancellation led to the shedding of many tears. Angie admits that some were for old hurts and disappointments. Her pain caused her to phone her mother, who resides in Jamaica. She recalled, “I called my Mum and said, ‘I can’t do this anymore’ and she just said, ‘Put the phone down; I’m going to pray.’ When my Mum says she’s gonna pray, whoever’s bothering you had better back off, because she’s sending me some warrior angel.”
Soon after speaking to her mum, Angie got a call from her producer, stating that her one-woman show was back on. Angie phoned her mum straightaway who, upon being told her daughter’s good news, said, ‘Me know,’ and told her daughter to go to church to give God thanks. That’s how Angie found herself at the NTCG in Lee, South London one Sunday, being pastored by her former church buddy, Bishop Roy McCloud.
Angie enjoyed the service: the congregation sang songs she remembered from her youth, and the preacher’s message touched her deeply, particularly as he shared that the church needs writers, who can make a difference. His words impacted Angie. She felt he was talking directly to her.
When the preacher made the altar call, she battled whether or not to go up. She didn’t. However, after stepping down from the rostrum, the preacher went back up and declared, “There’s somebody here. You know who you are; you need to come down here today.” That was Angie’s cue to go to the altar and surrender her life to the Lord.
That was in October last year. Since then, she says her life has changed. She feels it was as if God was waiting for her to come back into the fold. “The next day, I got a call from Time to Shine, and all the other projects I was working on came through. I started thinking, God were You just holding these up for me? Were You trying to say, ‘You gonna do it My way now?’”
Angie was and is now surrendered to God – grateful that He’s seen her through life’s highs and lows, and that she is now able to have a close relationship with Him.
Whilst a very thoroughly modern Black woman, there’s no doubting that Angie grew up in an old school Pentecostal church – the Church of God in Christ in Brockley, South London, to be exact – along with Jamaican-born Christian parents and four brothers.
Like most Pentecostal churches of the era, women were forbidden to wear trousers, make-up, tight or revealing clothes, or to perm their hair. Members couldn’t rave, swear, engage in sex before marriage, or remarry after divorce. The strict rules caused Angie to leave church as a teenager, but now that she’s back, she’s happy. “I didn’t get what they meant when they said God has been my life… God has made me feel good… I never got that. For the first time, I understand the peace of mind when you go, ‘I surrender, I surrender.’ The feeling was just like floating.”
Angie was very much the entertainer in her family. She started attending drama school at a young age; set up her own production company, where she did a number of plays, before branching off into the stand-up comedy and everything else we now know Angie for.
Growing up in church has left a strong imprint on Angie’s psyche. She remembers and loves the congregational songs of the era (she can’t do modern church songs yet), and the gospel scene of the time, as her brother Tony was a gospel promoter, who brought over the Clark Sisters and managed UK gospel soul outfit, Paradise.
Her life has come full circle. She is now living a Christian life, getting involved in her church, and wants to continue using her talents to make a positive difference.
Some may think Angie’s embrace of the Christian faith is going to make her fade into the background. It’s doing nothing of the sort. Her women’s chat show is ready to air; she’s working on an internet comedy show, and she has already told her pastor – and spoken to a number of gospel luminaries, including Bazil Meade – about staging a gospel musical she’s written, called Take Me Back, partly based on the famous Andrae Crouch song.
She explained, “I spoke to Bishop McLoud and said, “I’ve seen some performers in there. I’ve seen the band in there; I’m going to write a musical for the church. It’s called Take Me Back. He said, ‘What’s that about?’ I said, ‘It’s about two little girls who used to go to Sunday school, who’ve gone right around their lives, and come right back to what they know.’”
There are a lot of people out there, who were raised like me, because some of the people from the ‘old time’ church are coming back now. Our parents were praying for us, and covering us with that covenant to bring us back.”
Well, Angie, we’re glad you’re back home.
Ladies Talk TV will be broadcast on Vox Africa (Sky Channel 218) every Friday at 12.15pm from November 2. Visit www.angielemar.com for more details.