Justin Edwards: Unaccompanied As I Am

Note: This review is from 2006

Review by Steve Bennett


For his debut solo show, Justin Edwards has moved just about as far as he can from his outlandish dipsomaniac of a children's entertainer, Jeremy Lion.

Gone are the ill-fitting, garishly multicoloured suit and the six-packs of Tenant's. Instead, we are greeted by a man in sombre black, supping moderately from a pint of water. This is the mellifluous middle-class Justin Edwards of the Consultants, that refined and respectable Radio 4 sketch group, not the rowdy, inappropriate caricature of earlier Fringes.

'If you don't like comic songs, there really is nothing here for you,' he says at the start, and he's true to his word. This is an hour of musical comedy, but thankfully not of the variety that just changes the lyrics of hits to make them a bit rude.

These are proper compositions, with as much emphasis on making them musically strong as there is on the gags. Indeed, his opening number seems a straightforward folk number throughout several verses ­ only at the very end are we rewarded with a brilliantly unexpected punchline.

It makes for a mature, classy show. It's still funny, if not raucously so, and boasts a dozen or so excellent jokes, which is a more-than decent hit rate. Edwards also varies the pace with a few musical one-liners ­ brief snatches of songs with a painful pun at the end ­ for something of a guilty pleasure.

Wordplay, however clunky, is clearly a love of Edwards'. We also have pun-laden seduction song set in a library, crowbarring countless authors' names into the lyrics. And he likes the formula so much, he does the same with a barbershop/doo-wop song about wooing the daughters of a butcher, baker and greengrocer in turn. It really is a nostalgia trip for those who like the ancient 'She was only a butcher's daughter, but' gags of the music-hall.

There's no denying that there's a old-fashioned feel to the show; the musical styles he adopts are always middle-of-the-road, and the reference points quite cosy ­ from a paean to Hi-Di-Hi (a straightforward tribute song, despite the oddness of the topic) to Hangover Fairy, which sadly falls into the trap of being little more than a bland observational stand-up routine set to music, possibly his weakest number.

He even has a track dedicated to the aging 'this man walks into a bar' jokes, cunningly stealing the idea of the singalong chorus and applying it to comedy, so we can all join in with the old favourites.

As well as the music, Edwards makes for a charming, erudite host, with a quick mind efforlessly able to deftly improvising sharp, funny lines as he banters with the audience or copes with some technical glitch with the impressive home-made videos that accompany a few of the songs, enabling Edwards to harmonise with his recorded self.

But for Edwards' new, sober approach to comedy, there is one treat in store for those who loved Jeremy Lion: his kids' TV character, Beakus, a cutesy creation who embarks on a series of adventures that start off like Beatrix Potter and end up like Pulp Fiction. This, it appears, is still what he does best.

Steve Bennett


Review date: 1 Jan 2006
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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