Matt Watts: Playlist (Attenborough Arts, Leicester, 26 February 2017)

reviewed by Sally Jack

Matt Watts’s Playlist considers the role music plays in our lives, particularly now we are set firmly in the Age of the i-Pod.

Appearing on the final day of the Leicester Comedy Festival, Matt muses on music’s power to bring people together (or otherwise) through a series of rather unorthodox mixed media vignettes.

Matt has created a unique instrument to aid his storytelling. I’m not sure if it has a name, I’d go with ‘Pimped-up i-Pod Playlister’ or even just ‘Pimp My i-Pod’, but thanks to Superglue, a hacksaw and velcro, Matt has welded a launchpad on to his brother’s Rock Band guitar, carved out a space to connect his i-Pod and da-dah, a pretty impressive machine is born.

Matt is immediately engaging, with a quietly confident, deadpan but amiable delivery and after a brief introduction, including a confession of his love for the Arctic Monkeys, he tells the tale of Ryan and Ann.

Sampling and voice-looping songs and riffs via shuffle on his i-Pod, and with an amusing interpretation of ‘The Wheels on the Bus’ (including a new line for the children: “The racist on the bus shouts “go back home”), Ryan and Ann engage in a ‘will they, won’t they meet’ kind of dance.

Jade and James’s story follows, with:

First kiss, teenage bliss
and a mutual appreciation of Oasis

Using the premise that your i-Pod is a window to your soul, Matt looks at how a playlist can chart the course of a relationship. This story showcases the multi-layering effects of Matt’s Pimped Up i-Pod; who’d have thought Oasis and Bon Jovi would sound so good together?

Whilst clever, this story could do with a little tightening up in its telling –  inevitably, there are moments where music and effects need to be set up, and with a sometimes rambling story there are periods where momentum in the story is lost.

Matt includes some pre-recorded stories and the fight over Female Siri by what sounds like Male Siri and Stephen Hawking draws some of the bigger laughs of the performance.

The final story features Sandra and Dan, two individuals at opposite ends of the musical spectrum in terms of taste but who allow each other their ‘identity’. To the outside world, they enjoy their first dance at their wedding in silence; they dance together but are listening to their preferred version of the same song via headphones. Funny as that image is, I can’t help thinking this is a sadly prophetic statement.

Matt’s spoken words are lyrical, that is resembling song lyrics rather than the poetic interpretation, with a reliance on end rhymes and rhyming couplets.  I felt further exploration of the sounds Matt can create might add more to the overall performance, playing more with the interplay between voice, words and instrument; there are occasions where an excerpt of a song or manipulating effect had just got going when it came to an abrupt end.

Matt is clearly an inventive artist. A little more work on timing and content and his show will travel well (as long as he has access to at least one charging point).