Jazz Emu - Knight Fever

Descending into the basement space of the Soho Theatre, a group of musicians attired in shiny blue Sgt Pepper costumes play some gentle background musak as the patrons take their seats in the cabaret-style space. We subsequently learn that we’re in fact supposed to be in a basement rehearsal room of the Royal Albert Hall once Jazz Emu himself arrives with a dramatic flourish (and even more dramatic headgear) to inform us of the fact.

With a delicate reinterpretation of actual facts, we learn that tonight is the Royal Variety Show and as such King Charles will bestow a knighthood on one of the performers – because apparently in this universe this is a thing. Facing stiff competition from Kelly Clarkson of all people, the next 70 or so minutes through song and spoken work, Jazz Emu and his (very talented) band weave us through the reasoning as to why he should get the knighthood and the reasons he may not.

If that last sentence made very little sense then you’re probably not a fan of Archie Henderson – better known to his legion of social followers (at the time of writing 458k followers on YouTube alone) as Jazz Emu. Imagine The Flight of The Conchords fathered a child with Hedwig (of Angry Inch fame) with The League Of Gentlemen as godparents/occasional babysitters and you’re still not close to the absurdity on show. The narcissistic genius that is Jazz Emu weaves between numbers with a naïve arrogance – the character well-formed and perfectly executed. The songs themselves are amusing (more wry smile than belly laugh) and the musicianship from all of the performers faultless.

The challenge I had with the show is it felt a little like an over-stretched in-joke never quite hitting either hilarity or true originality – the audience was predominantly existing fans and it felt perhaps this was playing to their expectations rather than a wider audience. The ‘plot’ was a little thin at times (hopefully a work in progress that will develop during the rest of the run in Soho before a national tour next year) – for example the choice of Kelly Clarkson as the nemesis seemed odd – neither contemporary nor ironic – just a little odd (and not in a good way).

That said, whilst I wasn’t converted (yet), I can certainly see the talent behind the show and I’m sure with a little time and few tweaks that YouTube follower number will only continue to grow.

This show was reviewed on the 6th June 2024 at Soho Theatre, London where it runs until the 22nd June 2024.  Tickets available here: Jazz Emu: Knight Fever - Soho Theatre

Review written by Mike Stocks


Photo credit: David Monteith-Hodge – Photographise

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