Alex Cofield greets the arriving audience in kindly vicar mode, your average Derek Nimmo.
Alex Cofield: Supernova, Gilded Balloon Rose Theatre (Venue 76) ****
Soon, though, the clergyman is on stage, rhyming as if his life depended upon it and, if you believe the tale told here, it rather did.
Off comes the vicar garb and back we go a few years, to the young Alex, crushed by the boredom and lunatic rules of the small town of North Piddle. He’s making plans to get out, but the town overlord Fishwick doesn’t like that notion.
Oh no, not at all. In Alex, he sees someone he can groom to take his place one day, running the committees, the village shop, the local paper, probably the taps… can paperboy Alex escape or will he become the thing he hates most?
Cards on the table, hip hop isn’t my thing.
But Supernova isn’t some middle-class white Brit essaying a watered-down version of the American masters. It’s a massively talented performer taking the familiar forms of the genre and spinning out a peculiarly bonkers British tale of the individual vs an oppressive system.
Cofield darts about the stage, embodying his supposed young self, the sinister Fishwick and everyone else in the village, from the keeper of gossip to the pub bore, his chanting, rapping and rhyming building a compelling tapestry as he darts around the auditorium. There are one or two props, but really, this is one man bidding to punch his way out of a British Gothic nightmare with little more than willpower.
The highlight is Fishwick’s song, a throbbing, dark work, as the rural monster – he’d be quite at home in a League of Gentleman sketch – explains who he is, what he’s about and why North Piddle must never, ever change.
If you see just one “hip hopera” set in Archer country this year, make it Supernova.
• Until 26 August, 6pm