Professor Elemental, Thursday 20 July, The Dome at Station Hill
Star Rating: Five stars.
Review by Jo Thomas.
As promised Thursday 20 July was a rather special steam punk infused evening at the Reading Fringe Festival. Professor Elemental (Paul Alborough) a steampunk and chap hop artist performed in the ‘storm dome’. He invited Curious Sounds, a Reading-based band to open with a short set, after which he performed a number of ‘chap hop’ songs and shared experiences and musings about creativity with the audience.
During the show, we learnt from Professor Elemental that nine compliments can be undone by one negative comment. This made me mindful of any criticism in this review so let’s stick with the compliments, starting with the audience which was a friendly coming together of over 120 eccentrics, steam punks and more at the Dome at Station Hill.
Curious Sounds brought their eclectic range of instruments: a sousaphone, accordion, clarinet, flute, percussion board and voices. They sound like they’ve just stepped out of the 19th century, playing fast, jiggy, jazzy original songs including, ‘In for a Penny’, ‘Rat among the Pigeons’ and ‘Dead Good’. Their music was lively and engaging.
Professor Elemental performed in the second half. He was decked out in fine pith helmet and a jacket with European stars and the dark blue lines of a Union Jack sewn on. A couple of members of the audience also wore fine pith helmets.
The Chap Rap is innocuous mock Victorian English that is a funny antidote to much of the seriousness around right now. The tea song ‘Cup of Brown Joy’, a celebration of tea, was already familiar to lots of the audience. The song is accompanied by beautifully packaged tea bags (always good to have practical merchandise).
The chat in between the songs was personable and friendly. Sharing tales of a creative life and letting yourself be creative. This was an event for eccentrics, steam punks and people who use words like ‘quotidian’ which the professor rose to the challenge of incorporating into an improvised number. Chair jigging is only okay so far. There were plenty of people itching to get up and dance. ’Just be you I’m incredibly impressed’ ended Professor Elemental.
It was great to see both these acts together but either one would be a good night out on its’ own.
On the way out I heard him called a “top man”. I have to agree. As well as providing an evening of superb entertainment he took the time to thank the Reading Fringe Festival and all those who helped make it happen and encouraged a whole audience to feel just that little bit fre-er and creative. A tonic for our times.