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Mr B: How I Invented HipHop
Published on Monday, 09 May 2011

4.5 stars

Komedia Studio (venue website)
8 May, 10:30pm-11:30pm; 27 May, 5:30pm-6:30pm
Reviewed by Mathilda Gregory

 Suitable for age 15+ only.
 Warning: Contains strong language.

In the same way that steampunk fiction imagines a world where computers were conceived in the Victorian era, Mr B offers a vision of what would have come to pass if hip hop had been invented back when Britain had an empire worth rhyming about. This renders the joke at the heart of Mr B's persona almost groan-worthy: he's a proper English toff, who raps and plays familiar riffs on his banjolele, bouncing around in a three piece suit and a pair of Adidas.

But Mr B, rather like Fringe favourites Frisky and Mannish, lifts this concept by also being very, very good at his craft. The music, the lyrics and the superbly crisp enunciation give the whole thing an extra twist: that Mr B - who boasts of his musical prowess like all good rap stars should – is every bit as jolly ripping at rapping as he claims in his lyrical braggadocio.

The tricky bit is that, however well this gag is executed, it is just one gag - and I was interested to see how Mr B would keep it feeling fresh for an hour. He doesn't quite succeed. There was a moment about two-thirds of the way through when I felt everything was starting to sound the same, and began to twitch.

But he brings it round, if just a shade too late, with an inspired version of a German folk song and a finale featuring a Mr B take on dance music - both of which cemented the cleverness and the technical accomplishments of the piece and left the audience wanting more. In fact, if I were Mr B's director, I'd suggest he hold over his dance music finale as an encore. As it stood, the show's abrupt ending left most of the audience a bit stunned to be so swiftly hurled back into the real world... a cruel world where rap is something mainly done by people who, unlike Mr B, refuse to acknowledge that the word 'party' is a noun.

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