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Monday 20th August 2007

Edinburgh Fringe Review


At a value-for-money two hours, including interval, Mitch Benn’s Music Club falls somewhere between being a new Fringe show and another late-night hangout now that Late N Live isn’t what it was.

It’s probably closer the latter, but really needs another guest or two and, more importantly, a venue with its own bar, rather than a trek out to the upside-down purple cow plus a negotiation with security about taking alcohol out if you need a drink.

The show is a mix of new tracks, old favourites and a few he wrote for Radio 4’s The Now Show over the past few months. His party trick is to produce a full song, based on an audience suggestion, in the interval – though perhaps he shouldn’t let on just how quickly he can knock them out; as this instant song isn’t noticeably lower in quality to a lot of his other tracks.

Benn’s always been lyrically OK, but musically brilliant, and 2007 is no different. The parodies are terrifyingly close in style, from the theme song spoofing Sgt Pepper to Duran Duran, via James Blunt, The Smiths and Noel Coward.

Some of the numbers move away from straight piss-takes of the original artists, and are better for them. He creates a West End musical based on a The Hungry, Hungry Caterpillar, emotes a montage of Iraq war protest songs that make a point impressively well, and – a classic of his – reimagines Hamlet* as if performed by Eminem, which is the best novelty take on Shakespeare in a town full of them.

Another wonderful routine brilliantly mocks the over-emotive singing of every boyband and X-Factor wannabe around, as he sings random text with all the passion they muster, and make it seem as important as their soulless ballads.

Benn has a theatre-filling voice, and uses it to brilliant, booming advantage. It’s no wonder he has to knock back a vile aloe vera throat tonic between numbers. He’s given extra oomph by drummer Ivan Shephard and multi-talented rock babe Kirsty Newton on guitar, keyboards, and backing vocals. Guests add to the mix, too. Tonight it was the turn of spoof Christian folksters God’s Pottery, and the likes of Tim Minchin and Christian Reilly have previously popped in.

It’s basically a fun two hours, it won’t move you – well, except for getting your feet tapping – but it will entertain.

Reviewed by: Steve Bennett



*It was late, he was tired...  Mitch x 

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