Review: Phil Kay – Songer-Singwriter

Calm reflection, absurd mental images and a surprisingly moving experience

cabaret review (edinburgh) | Read in About 2 minutes
Published 04 Aug 2018
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Phil Kay

Here's the thing with a Phil Kay show of improvised songs: you never know what’ll happen. Or, sometimes, what is currently happening. Known for freewheeling improvised comedy, Kay will most often use the thoughts he’s about to think as his guiding script. So "singwriting", allowing singing to be the writing of the song, is a more apt description of this show than the wordplay first betrays.

For Phil Kay: Songer-Singwriter we’re in cosy yurt. There's a chair and there's a microphone. Topics of tonight’s songs include mountain lakes, Kay’s abnormally long new shoes, sequels and trying to get better at funk music. The contract is simple: we’ll help guide the songs by contributing ideas – a title, a desire, a reflection.

The process is very enjoyable. We easily feel included, welcome and needed. Like a machine, we feed ideas to be processed through Kay’s particular perspective to result in unpredictable musical musings that range from silly to melancholy. The fluidity creates an overwhelming atmosphere of humanity, of allowing and accepting each other in this room.

Not everyone will enjoy this kind of collaborative, unstructured process. Kay’s natural refusal to be pinned down to one idea, theme or even musical genre is not often the makings of a stunning comedy song. But this a unique performance of a mind at work. Kay gives us calm reflection, frequently absurd mental images and a surprisingly moving experience.