Brighton Fringe 2011
Surreal prosecution of man who breaks out into Rhianna songs in the presence of anti-social activity.
Andy Thomas’s light comedy starts with a reflection, karaoke rap style, on the uninventive and downright lies purveyed to us by street names – Boundstone Lane, then Boundstone Close, Boundstone this and that, or the building and tarmac filled expanse that is Freshfield Road, the Abbot Road with no abbots. The conceit is that he is in the Middle England dock of a local Lancing court, for continually bursting into song, mainly Rhianna songs, whenever he witnesses anti-social behaviour (but taking in Lady Gaga and a few others as well). And of course the words are not the same as the original. These songs have caused offence because of the context in which he sang them , for example humiliating an eleven year old chav for passing obscene notes, or for giving the same kind of response (through a different song) to the little tyke’s parents, or singing that he has “Downs Syndrome” on the downs.
Where Thomas hits a nerve he can be very funny and the audience is laughing and applauding in-between the songs, but it is a bit hit and miss. The Downs syndrome song is definitely miss, not least because it’s rather a weak pun to hang a whole comic song around. The first rap is entertaining, his not quite as lithe as Rhianna dancing is fun, but after a while his voice becomes even more out of tune, and the last few songs are bawled out rather than sung. Even in this kind of parody some kind of vocal tuning would have been welcome.
He uses recorded voices to provide the interrogation of the judge, and the prosecuting solicitor, and slides and video projection to good effect – they support the show well. There are hilarious moments as when he reads out the most absurd school girl essay about Sir Thomas Arkwright full of the repetition and sheer baloney like “But Thomas Arkwright forgot to padlock his spinning wheel so other people used his design”. But he did read out over three pages of A4, and while it did continually merit a chuckle, it is place where a bit of editing would have helped.
Thomas used to be, or still is, a history teacher and the show is informed by what you might call the “fear of the chav”. He exploits that genuine fear many have of the rather too large and noisy groups of smoking, vodka swilling fifteen year olds, on the platform or street corner, coming too close for comfort. These are real observations, but the slant on them is Daily Mail rather than satirical, and while the world might be risky, it’s safe humour we are being offered. This being said, Thomas is engaging and creates a good rapport with the audience and the surreal concept of continually breaking into Rhianna songs is entertaining, but the show overall could have done with a bit more edge, a bit more punch.