mon 14/10/2019

Reggie Watts/Mac Lethal, Royal Festival Hall | reviews, news & interviews

Reggie Watts/Mac Lethal, Royal Festival Hall

Reggie Watts/Mac Lethal, Royal Festival Hall

Quick-witted musical improv with a surreal twist and viral video rap join forces at Meltdown

Reggie Watts: waitin' on a train

The Meltdown Festival has always been a fascinating proposition, getting a living legend in their field to curate their own personal festival line-up, and present all of their idiosyncratic choices to London in the refined and retro-futuristic surroundings of the Royal Festival Hall. It throws up some fascinating curation, and while Yoko Ono has clearly had a hand in presenting some of the more agit-pop and esoteric acts on the bill this year (think Peaches, the ferocious Bo Ningen and a newly reformed Cibo Matto) it is clearly her son Sean Lennon who has taken it upon himself to populate the festival bill with a wide range of talent from his considerable address book.

Enter Mac Lethal, a curious proposition for the respectable seated audience here tonight. A fast-rapping YouTube sensation hailing from Kansas City, Lethal wields his considerable lyrical dexterity like a chainsaw, melting words into each over in a dizzying fashion over stuttering breakbeats and recycled pop hits.

It is when he has a workable theme that his talent really shines through

His most well known material comes from humourous takes on some of the more mundane aspects of life. Take his pancake rap, for example: aping the Chris Brown hit “Look At Me Now” Lethal waxes lyrical on breakfast etiquette in a display that, while being impressive lyrically, is lost in translation as the original context is gone. There are no cooking implements on the RFH stage, thus the magic of the original video is lost. The translation from viral video star to stage performer is evidently an arduous one, and while Lethal performed with bravado, perhaps he is better suited in front of a camera.

No such problem for Reggie Watts. The prodigiously talented improviser does not need to rely on past glories to entertain. Watts thrives upon immediacy, remarkably quick wits and a goofy, surreal charm that is equal parts bewildering and life-affirming. Relying almost entirely upon his innate ability to craft songs on the fly, utilising a looping pedal to sample his own beatboxing and musical grunts and whistles, Watts creates sublimely strange songs that are only limited by his (considerable) imagination.

Lampooning a wide range of musical genres, from dubstep, hip hop and soul, all the way through to musical theatre and slam poetry, it is when he has a workable theme that his talent really shines through. A particular highlight tonight was a curious ditty on the theme of train announcements, building to a crescendo of truly epic proportions.

There was a noticeable lag in pace two-thirds of the way through, with crowd interaction and random musings taking precedence over the intrepid musical journeys the punters were clearly here for, but it’s impossible to not enjoy a Reggie Watts performance. From his immense mane of hair to the festive and carefree approach he has to comedy there is nothing to do but strap in for the ride and to prepare for the unexpected.          

Watts thrives upon immediacy, remarkably quick wits and a goofy, surreal charm

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

Share this article

Add comment

Subscribe to theartsdesk.com

Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £3.95 per month or £30 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take an annual subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?

newsletter

Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters

Advertising feature

★★★★★

A compulsive, involving, emotionally stirring evening – theatre’s answer to a page-turner.
The Observer, Kate Kellaway

 

Direct from a sold-out season at Kiln Theatre the five star, hit play, The Son, is now playing at the Duke of York’s Theatre for a strictly limited season.

 

★★★★★

This final part of Florian Zeller’s trilogy is the most powerful of all.
The Times, Ann Treneman

 

Written by the internationally acclaimed Florian Zeller (The Father, The Mother), lauded by The Guardian as ‘the most exciting playwright of our time’, The Son is directed by the award-winning Michael Longhurst.

 

Book by 30 September and get tickets from £15*
with no booking fee.