Note: This review is from the 2015 Fringe

@ The Banshee Labyrinth, Edinburgh, until Sat 29 Aug 2015 @ 14:50

In a room resembling a medieval prison cell, the crowd has fully packed the already compact space (so much so that some people have to squeeze in at the doorway to watch) eagerly awaiting Harry Baker to return from the bathroom to commence his poetic wizardry.

This has to be the apotheosis of what is meant by an “intimate performance”, and when Baker does take the stage, you can see the spit flying from his mouth into the front row of the crowd, connecting him to the audience in the most physical terms. In the hot and acrid atmosphere of the chamber, this might actually be a welcoming refresh.

While this may not sound instantly appealing, it is worth mentioning, to show what Baker and the audience have to contend with. Rather than being detrimental to the enjoyment of the show, it adds a unique charm and quirkiness to what turns out to be a very special performance.

The basic premise involves Baker taking on the role of raconteur, recounting the story of his involvement with poetry and all of the variegated phases of love and life through the years. Interspersed through the narrative are recitations of his poetry, from pieces about prime numbers falling in love, to the science of bumblebees. On paper this may sound abstract and obscure, but each poem actually forms part of a back story, sharing a pertinent message about grand themes that everybody can relate to.

The key to Baker’s greatness is that he keeps his poems humorous and witty, never taking himself too seriously. Underneath the veneer there is a melancholic yearning that often seeps through, a deep awareness of the intrinsic ache of the human condition. With this in mind, the poems develop into an argument for a positive outlook, for self-belief and for finding meaning somewhere within ourselves. This is a performance that will make you laugh and make you think; art at its transformative best.

If you want to escape the madness of the Fringe, take an hour out of your day and see this absolute gem. For a free show, you won’t get much better.