Sunday, 6 March 2011

The Return of Boothby Graffoe - The Lowry, Salford

Writer: James Martyn Rogers
Reviewer: Dave Cunningham

Comedians use the occasional song to add variety to their act. Boothby Graffoe does the reverse – music dominates his performance. He goes so far as to enlist the support of talented multi-instrumentalist Nick Pynn to boost the sound of the show. Less successfully he uses, and comes into conflict with, pre-recorded sampled backing tracks.

The nature of the material is extremely varied. The witty wordplay of ‘ Spelling Sheep’, written to combat the effects of insomnia, is worthy of Elvis Costello. The theme of animals from his latest album brings a surprising degree of innocence and even sentimentality.

Few of the songs can be said to be entirely comedic and are better described as funny peculiar. One tells of a stalker who finds the object of his obsession to be even more perverse than himself. As you might expect from a song called ‘ Kittens in a Bag’ some of the numbers have a dark, sinister quality.

 Graffoe does not depend on the songs alone but draws laughter from simple techniques of facial expression and timing. He is capable of spontaneous improvisation – disrupting Pynn’s solo spot by larking around on a trolley he found backstage.

Despite an inspired update of the ‘ Who’s on First?’ routine the comic patter between the songs is under-prepared with topical references being particularly weak.

The late Frank Zappa once asked ‘ Does Humour Belong in Music?’ Boothby Graffoe helps you believe that it does although the eccentric nature of the material may not be to everyone’s taste.  

Reviewed on 5th March 2011 and tours until 9th April 2011
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