Tom Basden Won't Say Anything
Show type: Edinburgh Fringe 2007
2007 if.comedy best newcomer
Tom Basden, one quarter of the acclaimed sketch show Cowards (Radio 4, BBC3) presents his debut full-length solo show at this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
This wonderfully eclectic show is an hour of deadpan musical whimsy, interspersed with words, pictures and even some tiny films.
With songs covering such wildly varying subjects as ghosts, Chris Tarrant, glass eyes, suicide, ventriloquism, hypochondria, Iraq and love and 60 second documentaries about swimming the channel and ducks, an art exhibition, and coffee and tea making facilities included, this show promises to be utterly original.
Nominated for a 2008 Chortle award for best show
Last year, Australian comic Claire Hooper stage an lovely, inventive – but criminally overlooked – show called Oh! in which she used every performance trick in the book, and some more besides, to ensure she didn’t utter a word during the entire hour.
Tom Basden’s title might promise something remarkably similar, but his ambition is more modest. Songs comprise almost all the show – and he does sing them, but just chooses to leave the banter between each of them to his PowerPoint slides.
Most of these simply do the admin: announcing the next tune, flashing up ‘Thank you’ when he’s finished to acknowledge the applause that hasn’t yet started. Then there’s his random lists of quirky Top Five favourites things in obscure fields, such as types of water (No 2: Holy).
He’s drawn some cartoons, too, the best of which are the funniest things in the show – imaginative, offbeat and with such strong ideas behind them that you chuckle long after they’ve left the screen. The Far Side is probably the closest equivalent – and they’re that good, too. Another visual device is to show the Google Image search results for phrases he thinks will produce suitably idiotic photographs. And they do.
It’s the strength of the songs, though, that will make or break the show. Performed either with a folksy guitar or more portentous keyboard, they are mostly silly ideas set to serious music. Basden – one quarter of the Cowards sketch group – is basically Tim Minchin on a lower power setting.
Titles such as I’m Aware That I’m A Werewolf or I Used To Be Friends With Jack Bauer give an idea of the feel of the hour, ridiculous situations described as if they’re everyday conversations. Longer tracks are mixed with quickies to vary the pace – and as if that wasn’t enough, sometimes the colour of the screen with the captions changes colour, too. Wow!
Basden is clearly a witty, inventive man, and the gimmick is not so much that he’s not talking – but that he’s a damn fine songwriter; another frontline warrior in the fight to overturn the cheesy image of the musical comedian.
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett