Review: Downbeat

Image credit: Jasmin Rees

“This is the introduction song / It’s not as funny as the others but it’s half as long” So begins Ruari Bride’s debut stand-up show, Downbeat: a collection of his own comedy songs, which have featured in previous sketch shows with producer Adam Woolf and director Enrico Hallworth, all rolled into a 45-minute bundle of student musical comedy. This never-before-seen solo venture lives up to its the standard of the sketches which form its origins – it's brilliantly amateur, and even more so for not taking itself any more seriously than this.

Ruari begins by explaining to the audience how exactly he’s ended up here – “I originally wanted to be a songwriter, but that sort of failed as a career move as: I was a bit shit. But then when I arrived at Cambridge I started doing comedy, and that went tits up too –so naturally I decided to combine my two previous failures into one big ego trip.” I’m not quite sure whether I’m laughing with or at him at this point, but we’re all laughing nonetheless – and this pretty aptly sets the tone for the whole routine.

The ‘White Boy Song’ follows – a brilliantly lighthearted self-satire of every privileged guitar-playing white-boy stereotype you can imagine, sung – bizarrely – in a Texas accent. Ruari successfully taps into a range of caricatures to deprecate himself for the audience’s entertainment, and this is no better achieved than in the tragic tale of modern romance recounted in jazzy piano number ‘You’ll Do’. It’s a story all of us would prefer not be able to relate to, but from the raucous laughter generated in the room it’s clearly just a little too real: ‘My desperation, my loneliness / You weren’t perfect I’ll confess / I drank a bottle of champagne or two / So you’ll definitely do.’

‘Stash’, an anthem to the only useful piece of freshers’ advice you (apparently) need, went down particularly well, as did closing track, ‘The Consent Song.’ Introduced by director Enico Hallworth, who without warning leaps out from underneath a pile of cushions under which he’s apparently been hiding for the duration of the show, the audience are cautioned by the sunglasses-clad duo that ‘in this next song, we do get quite sexy.’ It takes the awkwardness that many can experience when raising and discussing issues of consent, but instead of falling into the trap of downplaying the importance of this, translates it into the equally awkward, yet infinitely funnier format of a backbeat funk tune – it’s this they use to promise to ‘satisfy you, wait and see / while respecting your bodily autonomy’. It’s the best of a repertoire of songs that can easily be compared to the likes of other musical comedians like Tim Minchin, to whom Ruari pays specific tribute during the set. It’s the slightly-more-polite, gloriously universiti-fied version of his sense of humour, and the audience loves every bit of it.

Downbeat is an eccentric, clever and unpretentious medley of amateur stand-up that does stands up well on its own, provided your expectations aren’t too sophisticated. By the end of his routine, it’s clear that Ruari’s nowhere near as shit as he professes to be at the start, but no more egotistical either. It’s a routine enjoyed best by audiences to his group shows, but raises a laugh nonetheless from everyone in the room.

7/10

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