Rap Battles @ Bannermans

Review by Bernard O'Leary | 19 Aug 2013

The Wee Man and Ro Campbell have invented one of the most exciting late-night formats since Set List with their Rap Battles, in which two comedians duke it out 8 Mile-style. It's thrilling and funny and quite a surprise to see how many comedians can spit mad flows. What Ro & Wee Man haven't counted on is just how vicious it gets. This could end in a murder.

First up tonight is Aussie underdog Yianni against that Mark Watson off the telly. Watson tonight settles an age-old debate: is a 1st in English from Cambridge an advantage in hip-hop? The answer is a resounding no, as Watson struggles to find words that rhyme with "Cypriot" and "beardy". Yianni came so prepared that he's even written a rap for Waston to use, and he dispatches the challenger with ease.

The second bout is where it gets vicious. Proving that gender and race aren't factors in this battle, Danish comedian Sofie Hagen performs what can only be described as a brutal murder on Dana Alexander. Hagen is hiilarious, but if she looks like butter wouldn't melt in her mouth it's only because she has the ice-cold heart of a killer. She shreds Alexander, taking apart her career and comic ability one rhyme at a time, eventually sealing the deal by citing a bad review. Bad reviews, in these battles, are the ultimate diss. Hagen is so confident of her victory that she finishes with a mic drop, while Campbell & The Wee Man seem genuinely terrified.

Round 3 is a North-East slobberknocker with flatmates Simon Donald and Seymour Mace attempting to destroy each other. Donald gives it a good go and takes several shots at Mace's mental health, but Mace is a natural at this and is better at freestyling than anyone else on stage tonight. It's strength vs. skill, like Foreman vs. Ali, and there's only ever going to be one winner. Mace says that Simon's brother wrote all the funniest bits of Viz and, just like that, the battle is over.

The title round tonight is Carl Donnelly against Romesh Ranganathan, enacting a minature history of hip-hop. Donnelly rolls up in an West Coast style, in a ridiculous pimp jacket and lots of bling, smugly rapping about his money and bitches and whatnot. Ranganathan, who is an actual rapper, summons up some old school East Coast fury, channeling the spirit of Chuck D as he smashes Donnelly for his overly-friendly relationship with Chris Martin and pointing out that Donnelly hasn't been on Mock The Week in ages. It's one of the most closely-fought battles but Donnelly's arrogance eventually proves his downfall.

Wow. This has been an inventive, exciting, funny and surprising show and hopefully will become a Fringe staple over the coming years. But damn is it violent, and it's only a matter of time before it results in drive-bys outside the Pleasance Courtyard. 

Rap Battles, Bannerman's, Thursdays and Sundays, 00:00, Free http://www.comedianrapbattle.co.uk