Cabaret Voltaire

Theatre Reviewed by Natasha Tripney

Baba Brinkman performs fast-paced, word-rich hip-hop essays about everything from Chaucer to evolutionary psychology. He’s a self-styled rap troubadour, passionate about Darwin, with an academic background in medieval literature. His Rap Guide to Evolution was well received at last year’s Fringe and he’s back this year with his Rap Guide to Human Nature. He’s also performing this free fringe effort, which harks back to his earlier material, referencing the Canterbury Tales as well as other ancient poetic works.

The show consists of four pieces beginning with the ancient Sumerian epic of Gilgamesh. He performs raps drawn from Chaucer’s Merchant’s Tale and the Finnish Kalevala before tying things up with some Beowulf. Brinkman clearly knows these works inside out and is capable of making the stories come alive – this is particularly successful in the case of his retelling of the Merchant’s Tale, which is both witty and genuinely tense in its exploration of adultery and jealousy, of the eternal male anxiety of being cuckolded (spot the evolutionary psychology link).

His ability to relate the ancient to the contemporary, to dot his flow with modern cultural references and make it all feel like waves in the same stream, is equally impressive. Fans of Snoop Dogg and Seamus Heaney will be equally inspired.

Published online
Review by
Natasha Tripney
Produced by
Baba Brinkman/PBH's Free Fringe
Baba Brinkman
Running time
50 minutes
View more production details