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Comedy Fringe Music

Fringe 2022: Alex MacKeith – Thanks for Listening review

Armed with a middle-class white man’s “primary form of communication”, the humble acoustic guitar, and fuelled by an ample supply of off-beat anxieties and fictitious anecdotes, Alex MacKeith: Thank you for Listening is an impressive solo Fringe debut from the winner of the 2020 Musical Comedy UK Awards.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Nestled in a small, ambiently lit room on the lower ground floor of McEwan Hall (this year’s Dexter venue hosted by Underbelly), Alex MacKeith is performing a daring one-man musical comedy. Armed with a middle-class white man’s “primary form of communication”, the humble acoustic guitar, and fuelled by an ample supply of off-beat anxieties and fictitious anecdotes, Alex MacKeith: Thank you for Listening is an impressive solo Fringe debut from the winner of the 2020 Musical Comedy UK Awards.

Made up of an eccentric collection of short-form musical compositions, the hour-long show opens with a comical tromp through a year’s worth of cultural mileage as he recounts the trials and tribulations of a lockdown spent with just his father. From Bridgerton to Joe Wicks, the familiar observations quickly warm MacKeith to the audience before he generously leaves lockdown behind to focus on a refreshingly unpredictable pool of song-bound scenarios.

MacKeith delivers these musically conjured scenes with a distinctively dark and absurdist narrative flair, with which he holds the audience in a suspenseful grasp throughout the show. One song – sang as a husky whisper – details a tragically twisted surprise birthday party gone wrong, whilst another pays a playfully morbid homage to the (very much alive) musical comedy giants Bill Bailey and Tim Minchin. Asking your audience to sing in a room of strangers at 3’oclock in the afternoon will always carry a certain risk, but it paid off for MacKeith with his mischievous call and response about a horrifying weight loss plan involving the River Thames, which had the audience heartily singing along.

In the final fifth of the show – a self-proclaimed lag spot, although it was nothing of the sort – the casual strumming of the first half gives way to a more melancholic tuning, providing an atmospheric backdrop to increasingly unhinged songs. Following in the footsteps of One Direction singing What Makes You Beautiful, MacKeith performs a wickedly twisted self-love song, which descends into a hilariously astute observation of our current government. He follows this with a revelatory exposé of marketing deception in television ads, culminating in an impressive call to arms regarding a lack of horses in banking.

Personal revelations are blended into the show at a rather ad hoc pace, with the overarching deception being an inability to separate the biographical from the farcical, although this is perhaps a nice antidote to our increasing desire to know everything about everyone. Instead, MacKeith chooses to weave these self-reflections throughout his show in a more nuanced way, as collectively his songs represent a heartfelt, therapeutic ode to his experiences with anxiety; in all its dark, absurd, and at times laughable forms. As the show goes on, there is no doubt MacKeith will continue to hone his groove, and it is well worth putting yourself in his audience to see it.

Press Image courtesy of Karla Gowlett