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The Find of The Fringe

Looking like a cross between Struwwelpeter, the Cure’s Robert Smith and Hollywood’s idea of Mozart, Tim Minchin has come over from Australia to raise the roof at the Fringe. On piano, he has the fast-fingered grace of a prodigy. His lyrics are so sharp, they’d turn Sondheim green with envy. And what’s more, he’s very, very funny. He’s the find of the fest.

From the moment Minchin, furiously gyrating to thrashy warm-up music, tumbles off the stage, you know you’re in the presence of a comedy maestro. He brings his audience on-side within two shakes of his hairspray-saturated mane because he offsets musical assurance against an appealingly self-doubting persona, signalled in a wild-eyed look that is as scared as it is scary. Issuing hesitant, between-songs banter, this keyboard wizard looks most at ease when he retreats to his grand piano to hammer out dexterous ditties that alternate flippancy with deep feeling.

In Rock and Roll Nerd, a self-portrait in third person, Minchin pokes fun at the type of twentysomething who can’t give up on becoming Bono or Bowie; in Dark Side, he vents the frustration of a middle-class kid who had it too cushy to be uber-creative (“Daddy never came to my ballgame,” he wails).

Other songs broach the interminable nature of married life, offer a solution for the Arab-Israeli conflict, and issue an eco-rallying cry against plastic bags. There’s even a brilliant ballad to a blow-up doll. We’ll be hearing a lot more from this Antipodean wunderkind.

In the realm of music-comedy, it’s going to be Minchin’s year – but the competition is worth checking out, too.

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