Topping & Butch: A Lot to Take In

Note: This review is from 2005

Review by Steve Bennett

Were there a prize for the best title on the Fringe, this show would surely take it. It’s indicative of the depraved, filthy double entendres of which this duo are capable at their best, or worst

Despite the leather S&M get-up and the portentous doom-inspiring music that heralds their arrival, this is suggestive comedy at its most coy-innocent. Their genuinely warm banter and affectionate teasing ensures that everything is perfectly safe.

A little too safe for many tastes, though. What Topping & Butch serve up is the most traditional kind of intimate cabaret revue. It’s as if the past 40 years of comedy never happened.

Their signature tune, Never Mind, is the most obvious manifestation of this. Bang up-to-date topical, new verses are added almost daily to stay abreast of breaking events, but the style is pure Ned Sherrin. Although they may be industrious, they are hardly cutting edge – but as the song goes, Never Mind.

They are unashamed of being populist, though, and revel in it. Only they could have an irony-free Sale Of The Century style fanfare and get away with it. They clearly love the stage, and that good feeling easily diffuses out to the audience.

Topping – whose eyebrows must be up for a double act award on their own – is the older, avuncular one. (Well, if you had an uncle with a penchant for kinky red kilts). It’s he who best handles the double entendres, his supposed bass-voiced gravitas making them all the more naughty, in the same way Humphrey Lyttleton does on I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue.

Butch is more playful and more obviously cheeky, a slight counterpoint to Topping’s nominally more grown-up persona – and it’s their relationship, and boundless energy, that gets them over the wobblier moments.

But even that vital bonhomie ebbs as the show goes on, and things start to flag. Especially when you begin to suspect that some of the songs have bee included just to show off their vocal talents, rather than their comedic ones – the aria BA used in their adverts, for instance, and Butch’s solo, lyric-altered version of Where Do You Go To My Lovely?

A chav musical finale revives the spirit of the show again, a full-on song and dance number with plenty of bursts of upbeat songs. But even though it is impressively staged, the lyrics are lazy: mere mention of such buzzwords as ASBOs, happy slapping or Burberry seems enough to get them by.

It’s unlikely their old-style act is ever going to appeal to the comedy purist; but the fact a couple in the front row came along to this – their seventh Topping and Butch show - wearing home-made in tribute to the duo suggest they’re doing something right.

Review date: 1 Aug 2005
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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