Downbeat

Tue 22nd – Wed 23rd November 2016

reviews

Jessie Davidson

at 00:43 on 23rd Nov 2016

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Downbeat is a brilliant show combining comedy with music. It fabulously engages with the audience, providing a short but sweet evening of mostly successful entertainment.

Downbeat is a one man show, the series of songs interwoven with comic speeches performed entirely by Ruari Bride, with just a band and changing coloured lights for accompaniment. Performing a one man show, Bride sets himself up for a challenge. He has to keep the audience entertained with his wit and songs alone. Such a feat is well undertaken and spectacularly achieved, the forty five minute show ending with the audience begging for an encore.

The comedy show combines songs with stand up comedy in a wonderful mass of self-deprecating humour. Subject matter ranges from what you need to look ‘sexy’ in Cambridge (stash, of course) and political satire to a humorous genre blending song about ‘putting the sensual back into consensual’.

We are introduced by Bride’s opening song and speeches, where he puts himself forward as just another comedic white guy on the block. The portrayal is replete with self-deprecating twists. Bride claims to be wearing a hat as it makes him look as cool as James Bay, and tells us he will sing a semi-autobiographical song about a depressed hippopotamus. Bride humorously explains the reasons he has put on this show; being a failure at both stand-up comedy and singer-songwriting, he has chosen to bring his two greatest failures together into one super act. And it is a success.

The songs are glitteringly replete with sexual puns and comedic satire. Bride successfully combines the high with the low in whirls of humour. In a song about a Surrey love affair he laments of the beautiful ‘English Rose’ breaking his heart ‘in Waitrose’. Yet underlying all this is a dark cynicism about modernity – a hilarious song about the meeting of couples in a bar (involving, by the way, some degree of audience participation) ends each verse with the bathetically unromantic line “you’ll do”, expressing in a humorous way the grim truths of casual bar hook-ups.

Less effective were the attempts at seriousness. Attempts were made at political satire, such as a short song satirising Trump’s sexual profligacy, which gained several laughs from the audience. Yet a longer song tried to deal with the serious issues of young people’s political engagements online. A valid, if one sided, argument came across somewhat as a rant, punctuated only occasionally by gasps of humour. Theatre like this does best to stick to comedy underlain by seriousness, rather than trying to make the seriousness its main point.

Bride’s one man show was accompanied by just one instrument (a keyboard), despite his humorous oral imitations of a trumpet, and for most of the show he filled the stage alone. Facing this challenge, Bride pulled it off wonderfully, causing the audience to erupt with laughter during and at the end of each song. The small, informal venue of the show fostered a community atmosphere adding to the vibes. Yet the show was not low tech at all, with impressive coloured lighting throughout. It added to the humour, with neon pink lighting making the consent song extra sexy.

This show as an evening’s entertainment has a lot to offer. Combining the great singing voice and hilarious lyrics of Bride with astute satire on Cambridge life and marvellous lighting arrangements, it is an original achievement despite its own self-deprecating comments. Although some songs could have been slightly improved, the humour was largely on point and I recommend this show for anyone seeking a chilled evening of comedy.

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