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“Last Year’s Festival Directors’ Award Winner Doesn’t Disappoint.”

TIM MINCHIN’S crazy cabaret won him a festival director’s award at last year’s Comedy Festival and best newcomer at the Edinburgh Fringe. High praise creates high expectations, and Minchin doesn’t disappoint.

He arrives on stage barefoot, in a suit buttoned all the way to the top, with hair teased wildly backward, as if he’s tried to stare down an industrial fan at close range. He looks like a cross between a concert pianist and Igor, the mad retainer from the Frankenstein movies.

This resemblance is reinforced by Minchin’s rapid and seemingly inexhaustible array of nervy expressions, including one half-squint, half-ogle that should by rights be anatomically impossible (if only on the grounds of taste). In short, he’s a man who can make you laugh before even singing a note.

What makes Minchin special is his versatility. As he yoyos between piano and mic, you’re struck by the fact that he’s simultaneously an excellent stand-up comedian, a purveyor of physical comedy, an accomplished musician and a lyricist of diabolical ingenuity.

The tunes range from pop pastiche and patter-songs through to the most unpleasant love ballad ever, animated by the same savagely satirical spirit. Witty, smart, and unabashedly offensive, the lyrics sound as if they were written by Noel Coward with his head in a microwave.

As for performance technique, Minchin doesn’t so much play the piano as attack it kung-fu style.

Minchin’s stand-up isn’t quite as good as his songs – the piano is clearly his comfort zone – but this experienced entertainer rebounds effortlessly from potential falls.

When his gags are good, they’re hilarious; when they’re bad, you get to watch Minchin haul his lead balloon across the stage and kick it into the wings, which is almost as funny.

4 stars.

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