Ludlow Fringe Festival 2019
Alex Cofield’s magnificent skewering of small village countryside life is seen through the eyes of his own aspiring and restless self, eager to leave the sleepy village of North Piddle. The narrative is executed through a masterful use of rap-style poetry which thunders its way through the performance.
Alex Cofield bounces on stage and presents us at first with an amenable and somewhat bumbling persona. Then suddenly racing in to his verse, Alex treats us to his take on all manifestations of village life from the Hunt to the Village Fete. Changing scenes and various characters are portrayed using this form (incongruously it could seem) of rap-style poetry.
Possibly more Betjeman than Jay-Z, with an easy rhyming style which belies its craft, the show is at times more Under Milk Wood than underground, more Royston Vasey than North Piddle. Alex charms and enthrals us not least through his mastery of the form itself vocalised through his tight and exquisite rhymes.
It would be easy to miss the sheer craft of Alex’s writing as his exuberant performance almost outshines the words but the engagement is complete when he enacts his numbers game sequence which is particularly clever. As he on occasion moves around the audience it gives the show a wonderful engaging air and keeps the energy flowing throughout.
Supported by the majestic sounds provided by Aaron Clapp which dovetailed neatly within the stream of words, Alex used the minimum of stage props and they, in their simplicity, added so much to the overall charm of the evening. Never have a pair of Aldi reading glasses with their side lights been used to such effect in a darkened theatre space!
Rap poetry is not to everyone’s taste but to translate the form over to quintessential English village life is a masterful idea. The composition of elements had the audience and this reviewer spellbound.
The phrase Tour de Force is often used and not often justified but in Alex Cofield’s case it was clear that we were in the presence of exactly that. Just the skill of even keeping this fast-paced narrative going seemed a heroic achievement. This is a show not to be missed.