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Home arrow Archive: Earlier Fringes arrow Archive: Brighton 2012 arrow Professor Elemental's Great and Secret Show
Professor Elemental's Great and Secret Show
Published on Wednesday, 09 May 2012

3 stars

Marlborough Theatre (venue website)
3-5, 18 May, 10:00pm-11:30pm
Reviewed by Richard Stamp

 Suitable for age 15+ only.
 World Premiere.

In a sense, I’m wasting my time reviewing “gentleman rapper” Professor Elemental.  Not because, as he disarmingly points out, he seems to perform in Brighton every ten seconds; no, because you can do the job perfectly well for yourself, right here on YouTube.  If that video has you in stitches, you’ll love his live show.  If it doesn’t… well, this probably isn’t for you.

Truth be told, I’ve now heard the Professor’s signature track Cup Of Brown Joy about as many times as I want to, so my heart sank when “I say Assam, you say lovely” proved pretty much the first words of his set.  But what do I know?  The audience of committed fans, some in beautifully styled steampunk regalia, lapped it all up – and there were some new (to me) twists to even the old material, for example when an entertaining diatribe on sport transformed into his anthem to eternal Britishness, Splendid.

But chap-hop – that is, rap in a posh accent – isn’t all that fresh these days, so for me, the highlights came when the good Professor went off-script.  Freestyling using random phrases contributed by his front row, he proved that he genuinely can make this stuff up on the fly, and his frequent banter with the audience was every bit as sparky and characterful.  What’s more, I enjoyed the moment when an unexpected tech failure forced him to perform a number a cappella. You could have put that in an upmarket coffee shop and called it performance poetry… and we’d all have said it was wonderful, darling, wonderful.

Each of Professor Elemental’s Fringe shows features a different guest act, and on the night I attended, he was sharing the stage with burlesque variety performer Count Adriano Fettucini.  I’m not quite sure what to make of Fettucini’s act; either he was genuinely very nervous, or he was over-doing that showboat thing of messing up a trick on purpose, to make it seem more impressive when it finally succeeds.  Whichever way, it was a bit of a shambles, especially in contrast to the Professor’s effortlessly natural act.

I have to say, too, I was genuinely offended by Fettucini’s crude stereotype of a perpetually drunken Scots piper – it’s lazy and tiresome, and it’s to the credit of rainbow Brighton that nobody in the audience bothered to laugh.  Then again, I haven’t seen many genuine Scots pipers do a striptease on a unicycle.  And the set was ultimately redeemed by a well-sold final stunt, which did something apparently impossible with cigar boxes in the face of mortal peril – or at least, in the face of a dangerously-positioned mousetrap.

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These are archived reviews of shows from Brighton 2012.  We keep our archives online as a courtesy to performers, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.