Note: This review is from the 2016 Fringe

Though perhaps best known for his skills as an accomplished beatboxer, Beardyman shows off the full range of his musical skills in this one hour compositional extravaganza. From creating irresistible licks on the electric guitar to reeling off piano pieces with a flourish, he even has a spectacular voice to accompany it all. But it’s when he’s behind a maze of wires and monitors he’s at his best, as he loops and samples his own recordings to create art in front of your very eyes.

Before the show begins, festival minions dole out pen and paper to the waiting rabble for us to scribble suggestive song titles to help Beardyman out in the coming set. As the title suggests, he’ll attempt to transform these ideas into a complete album in just one hour and even enlists the help of an iPhoned audience member to time the whole thing. Actually, he’s aiming for the even more ambitious target of creating said record in 46 minutes, with the opening quarter being given over to explaining away the absence of facial hair and introducing the Beardytron 5000 Mark 17, the electronic gizmo which acts as the Delorian to his Marty McFly.

Watching him work is truly spectacular and probably unlike anything you’ll ever see at the Fringe or indeed elsewhere. After plucking a ridiculous title from the hat, he takes audience suggestions for the genre and then sets about creating a credible piece of music in real time, on stage. His ability is quite baffling, regardless of whether it’s a gospel hymn, reggae anthem or power ballad he’s crafting and he excels at mixing genres as well (the crossover of bhangra and ceilidh music is particularly impressive, if perhaps a little culturally insensitive).

He’s also an adept impressionist, morphing from an Australian accent to an uncanny Donald Trump via a perfect pastiche of Bono. The amount of talent on show is unbelievable, but he has a tendency to either drop a piece just as the crowd are getting into it or instead descend into the chaos of drum’n’bass. This trick is repeated so much that it threatens to overshadow his supreme skill behind the Beardytron 5000, and a little bit more structure and follow-through would make this impressive show an outstanding one.

In the end, it’s hard to escape the feeling that Beardyman is squandering his undeniable flair for music. It’s all very well and good sitting on high and showing just how easy it is for him to parody existing styles and artists, but if he actually set his talents to creating something original of genuine merit, there could be no limit to his ability or legacy.