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James Sherwood: At The Piano - Fringe 2009

Note: This review is from 2009

Review by Nione Meakin

BACK in the early Nineties, musical comedy was quite the thing, then it was a bit embarrassing, and now, thanks to the likes of Tim Minchin, Bill Bailey and the Flight Of The Conchords boys, it's cool again.

Radio 4 regular James Sherwood is a clever man and has seized the zeitgeist, or jumped on the bandwagon, depending on your point of view. Accompanied by his bulky keyboard, this likable geek offers a series of deadpan ditties on such things as the inherent idiocy of opening a noodle bar when you can't spell noodle or his yearnings to peek inside the (metaphorical) trolley of the object of his in the late night Tesco's.

A theatre in Camberwell recently asked Sherwood to take part in a live 'complaints chorus' where he was tasked with turning audience feedback about the borough into musical comedy - yes, quite a prospect. It came in handy though, as one of the resulting songs, which laments Camberwell's overabundance of pound shops , forms a singalong centrepiece to this show.

Oddly, and the reason I suggest Sherwood may have jumped on a bandwagon rather than spotted an opportunity, he is far funnier in the between-song banter and the smart asides than the actual songs. It's obvious he is a competent musician – he makes that clear in his selfconsciously smartarse musings on the merits of different keyboard demos and jokes about guitar chords. But unlike Minchin or the Flight Of The Conchords, the songs don't stand up on their own. Some of the rhymes are a bit schoolboyish, sometimes its clear the song has been written around an insubstantial joke.

They are amusing, sure, but nowhere near the level that would be needed to put him in the super league.

When he is back in familiar territory however, picking apart existing songs with hilarious pedantry or musing on a misheard Radiohead lyric , he is a joy.

Review date: 15 Aug 2009
Reviewed by: Nione Meakin

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