Saturday 8 June 2024

Stage: A knight to remember

Jazz Emu: Knight Fever
with Archie Henderson, Sofia Grant (keys), Nicky Green (synths), Angie Prasanti (bass), Joel Phillips (drums)
Soho Theatre, London • 3-22.Jun.24
Also at the Pleasance, Edinburgh Fringe in Aug and touring the UK in Feb-Mar 2025

With a wildly imaginative narrative, this show has an entertaining ramshackle vibe that almost allows us to forget that these are extremely skilled musicians and comics putting on a silly show. Cleverly framed around an epic quest, it's a performance that keeps us laughing with subtle gags, witty music and energetic physicality. So while Jazz Emu is essentially a clown, it's very difficult not to root for him.

We're watching the final rehearsal for the Royal Variety Show for Jazz and his band The Cosmique Perfectión, who are following Kelly Clarkson in the lineup. But for Jazz, the key question is who the King will give a knighthood to at the end of the night. And every effort he makes to gain attention seems to push him even further away from this ultimate honour. It also begins to feel doubtful that he can prove that other people love him as much as he loves himself.

As played by Archie Henderson, Jazz is a charmer with absolutely no awareness of himself or the world around him. How else would he get pulled into such an obvious fishing/malware scam? Or why else would he hire a clearly shifty publicist to help him secure the knighthood? With his elastic voice, he's also a gifted comic and singer who plays a range of instruments as he and the band perform his instant classic tunes, including the email "opera" My Brothe, the hilariously transgressive Eggerson Keaveney and the funky, insanely catchy Still Waiting. All of these have already become iconic on YouTube.

The humour is often surreal, finding laughs in the most unexpected places, from the frequent jabs at Kelly Clarkson to a cobra drinking lemonade. He recounts wonderfully ridiculous stories that spiral in wildly absurd directions, such as his brief experience of afterlife when he hit his head in a swimming pool. And his song about going back to the good old days is as stupid as it sounds, but also carries a wickedly sharp point.

This is a wonderfully slick show, with great live music accompanied by terrific video-screens that both add to the songs and push the narrative along. Each bandmate emerges with his or her own personality and skill, while Jazz has a lot of fun playing off the audience, many of whom are clearly already loyal fans. And seeing this show is a sure-fire way to become one yourself.

For information, 
photos by Dylan Woodley & David Monteith-Hodge • 6.Jun.24

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