World champion slam poet Harry Baker returns to the Fringe, accompanied by his talented friend Chris Read on guitar for a spoken word/acoustic fusion set. A combination of catchy hooks and breathtaking verbal ingenuity makes this a winning hour, and the affable duo trade well off their nice-young-lad personas (‘gents so nice, mums want us to marry their kids’). The quality and quantity of laughs on offer is generous and yet the show is cynicism-free, the tone unapologetically feel-good.
Baker’s background in maths can be felt in the way in which he constructs his lyrics, as if revelling in the patterns and possibilities that language can yield
Baker’s background in maths can be felt in the way in which he constructs his lyrics, as if revelling in the patterns and possibilities that language can yield (one punchline involving an “imaginary managerial menagerie” elicited audible gasps from the audience). His brain works at such a feverish pace that he freestyles a rap-verse based on audience suggestions with aplomb, at one point executing an astonishing recovery from an apparent lyrical nosedive.
The songs cover a wide range of ideas: “Whaddyawannado” is a brilliant study of post-university angst and “Simpler Times” is a gloriously refashioned “What a Wonderful World” for the modern era. The highlight, however, is Baker’s affirmative poem “The Scientist and the Bumblebee” set fabulously to intricate music by Read. Occasionally, the creativity is somewhat sacrificed for the sake of laughs - one section, in which 90s hip-hop is rewritten for a church youth group, is funny but not quite as inspired as other sections of the show.
Certainly, some may find the faintly fluffy, feel-good vibe a bit cloying: the songs have that slightly broad Jack Johnson/Jason Mraz acoustic thing going on. Baker’s singing ability leaves a good deal to be desired and often sits slightly uncomfortably next to Read’s tuneful crooning (though this is fully acknowledged by Baker himself). However if you’re looking for a warm, funny and intelligent 50 minutes to brighten up your rainy afternoon then look no further than Pilgrim at 1.45pm.