Edinburgh Preview: Mr. B The Gentleman Rhymer (LOST Theatre, London)

Chap-Hop Hooray! Jim Burke as Mr. B. Photograph: Courtesy of the artist.

Chap-Hop Hooray! Jim Burke as Mr. B. Photograph: Courtesy of the artist.

Rating: *****

Forget Kanye West, Jay Z, and most certainly Chris Brown, Chap-Hop is where it’s at. Bringing a spot of much needed class and traditional status-quo to rap, Mr. B is set to bedazzle us with upper class lyrical genius. Not only does he raise an eyebrow to the thug life, he surgically elevates them. With an immense amount of wit, observation, and poetic prowess, this show is deliriously spiffing.

The formula is simple. Take an old school aristocrat chap decked in tweed and sporting a rather dashing moustache, and make him a Hip-Hop obsessive with a penchant for turning misogyny and gun violence into bumps and grinds about gin and cricket. Creator Jim Burke has Mr. B’s character down to a T, putting just as much thought into personality as he has into this wry clashing of cultural phenomena, creating a marvellous evening of winsome satire and juxtaposition. Burke is also joined on stage by Adele Bates, who blasts us with an operatic take on N.W.A, and Mr. B’s faithful manservant, Carshalton, who also manages to surreptitiously slide in his own little number with the grace and panache you’d expect from a gentleman’s gentleman. Both are wonderful little editions to the evening’s proceedings. As an act, this trio certainly give Jeeves and Worcester a run for their bling.

Although covers of popular classics are certainly on the agenda, Mr. B, isn’t a one trick pony. Burke doesn’t just do cover as if he were the lovechild of 50 Cent and George Formby, he also sends up other genres such as the Factory Records back catalogue and pens his own original pieces in this mad fusion style. Each track is golden and side-splittingly hilarious. For example, you simply haven’t lived, or laughed, until you’ve heard Reel 2 Real, James, or the Beastie Boys performed on a banjolele.

If there are any issues with the show, it’s always going to be a local one. Reeling off devilishly tricky rocked rhymes at break-neck speed, balancing these against his amped instrument and boombastic backing track is always going to pose a challenge for any seasoned sound engineer. It also takes a little bit of time to adjust to his thunderous non-stop lyrical lilting, especially if the balance between treble and bass isn’t quite there to begin with. The only other possible criticism is that you do have to be of a certain age or an enthusiast of late 80s and early 90s music to actually get the gags and appreciate just how inventive and clever the send-ups are.

But otherwise Mr. B is the perfect anecdote to banality of popular music. A master craftsman of character comedy and original cabaret, the show is rapturous and rollicking. Verily, Mr. B is quite the shizzle.

Mr. B The Gentleman Rhymer played at the LOST Theatre, London SW8 2JU, on 10 July 2013. He will be playing his show Can’t Stop, Shan’t Stop at the Voodoo Rooms, between 13 – 25 August 2013. Tickets are £8. To book, visit www.edfringe.com.

For more information about Mr. B visit www.gentlemanrhymer.com.

Please note, as this is a preview show ahead of the Edinburgh Festival, some of the content may be adjusted ahead of the festival residency.

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