Chris Read is a talented singer-songwriter performing his debut solo hour at the Fringe this year. He opens his show warmly at the piano and lets everyone in the room know that he genuinely appreciates them being there, with a welcoming smile on his face from start to finish.
Committed parents who enjoy poignant ballads will find this material relatable and touching
He starts with an affectionate ode to his gradually disappearing hair that ends in a killer reference to the musical Cabaret that would do Liza proud. As he moves to the front of stage with his guitar, he continues with a string of easy listening songs on a range of subjects, from his history as a musician, to starfish preservation, to his recent introduction to fatherhood. This inspires the show title, Little Man, being a reference to his six-month old son, in the audience today for Read’s birthday, and is a running theme throughout.
Its classification as a cabaret show invokes the expectation that there will be some degree of interaction with the audience, but this is first and foremost a music show. The music and chat are strong but very much pre-planned. While the room today was clearly enjoying it, the impression was that the show is presented identically each day, rather than adapted to the individual dynamic dictated by the audience, as would be expected in traditional cabaret.
The songs are intercut with charming anecdotes that are frequently amusing and occasionally funny. The music is immensely listenable-to but lack the variety of styles and a killer signature number that one might hope for from a cabaret show. For me, the highlight was Read’s ‘woke nursery rhyme’ – the first number he has written in what has the potential to become a reputation-forming whole show.
As with all music, taste is very dependent on the individual in the audience. One could be forgiven for finding this hour tedious and repetitive, yet equally likely to be encapsulated by the deep, gentle and personal heartstring-tuggers, and find yourself giving Chris Read a proud place among your regular playlists. Those who consider themselves committed parents who enjoy poignant ballads will doubtless find this material relatable and touching.