My first ever experience of comedian and song-writer Mitch Benn took place in the small-ish, round performance studio in the Aberystwyth Arts Centre. There were some tables and chairs in the middle of the room, where those who had been in the front of the queue were seated, whereas the rest of us sat against the wall on thin pillows on wooden benches. This is not a seating arrangement I am opposed to, though I noticed several of the slightly older members of the audience grab unoccupied chairs during the intermission.
The show itself started 15 minutes late, on account of how everything (Mitch Benn’s own words) takes longer than you think it will when you are travelling in Wales. It was a show of anecdotes – some rehearsed, some on the spot – gags and music, plus occasionally writing names of artists down on a board, all the while telling us how and why Mitch Benn identifies himself as the 37th member of the Beatles. This is a show that he first wrote for and did at the Edinburgh Fringe. One of the reviews for his show at the fringe called it ‘immaculately researched’ something that I would personally have to agree with entirely, had it not been for Mitch Benn’s explaining that he really knew most of the information off the top of his head before he even wrote the show. He is Beatles fan in heart and soul, and his knowledge was more than impressive.
I will admit to being a little put off by his backing tracks that he played off his iPod while he played guitar and sang at first, though I warmed up to it through the show. The feeling they gave at was a little amateurlike and impersonal, but when the last act of the first half was to show us in real how he can, using nothing but his own voice and his iPod, made a backing track right in front of us in five minutes, using a system of loops. This part of the show was incredibly impressive, and I’m not lying when I say I had a large grin on my face throughout.
All in all, it was a show I would recommend highly if you have the chance to see it. I walked in with a very limited knowledge of both the Beatles and of Mitch Benn, and I walked out much improved in both field.
Unlike my learned friend, I am a longtime fan of Mitch Benn. I first discovered his music on Radio Four’s satirical news show, The Now Show. This is where Benn showcases the majority of his political work; along side other comedies such as Steve Punt, Hugh Dennis and Marcus Brigstocke. Enjoying his work immensely I jumped at the chance to see him perform live and brought tickets to see his 2009 tour. Since then I have seen him record as part of the Now Show and two of Edinburgh Fringe shows, one of these shows being the original run of the 37th Beatle during 2013’s Fringe.
Going into the show in Aberystwyth I did have an idea what to expect. The material from the one-hour show would not be left out and although I knew Benn would have added material to the show, I was happily surprised with the amount he had added. While he had kept to the structure of the original show, the longer length has allowed him to focus in on details that had to be passed over during the Edinburgh show. Not only did this include new jokes, but also new songs. The small snippets into Benn’s personal life were still present, especially the hilarious reason why he claims to be the 37th Beatle. The show also flowed better as Benn did not have to worry about fitting into the one-hour format.
While I prefer Benn’s more political work, there’s a special place in my heart for the song about the man who threw his shoes at George Bush (The Shoe Guy – it’s on Youtube look it up), I still found the Beatle homages enjoyable. My particular favorite is Brain and George, which is the homage to Eleanor Rigby.
I would highly recommend the show to any Beatles fan. If you are more interested in Benn’s political work, which is where he really shines, I would recommend listening to the Now Show or visiting his website, where he has videos for his most poplar shows.