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Frisky And Mannish: The College Years

Note: This review is from 2010

Review by Steve Bennett

There ain’t no party like a F&M party! One of the breakout hits from last year’s fringe, this devilishly flamboyant duo are back for more of the same: inventive pop mash-ups and withering celebrity put-downs delivered in compellingly camp, condescending style.

Second time around, and without the element of surprise, it’s easier to nitpick a few minor weaknesses, but this wild musical cabaret is just such a blast, that would be churlish. Surely no one could fail to have fun in this whirlwind of upbeat musical parody, driven by the divinely powerful presence of Lady Felicity Fitz-Frisky and Hansel Amadeus Mannish.

Well, I say that. The critics were divided last year, as the indulgently self-referential opening overture makes abundantly clear, with quotes from reviews both pro and anti. ‘Indulgently self-referential’ isn’t a criticism, by the way – lest that get into next year’s lyrics – as the duo’s supercilious on-stage vanity is what drives the comedy. The schoolma’amish manner of vocalist Frisky, resplendent in elegant basque with an eye-catching scarlet fancy perched atop her similarly vivid hair, uses her powerful, rangey voice to keep the rowdy room in check while Mannish, with his New Romantic hair and matching braided and glittery striped jacket, provides back-up vocals and nifty piano.

As last year, the theme here is educational, with the likes of JLS, Alicia Keys and Kelly Rowland all being berated for the grammatical slip-ups in their lyrics. Meanwhile we, the putative college students learn the basics of pop mechanics such as the ‘collision theory’ of how to put unlikely duets together or the hitherto secret inspirations of some of the biggest names in music.

This is all a ruse for the pair’s marvellous mash-ups, as inspired as anything Bill Bailey could come up with: Creep as a banging dancefloor filler, Shirley Bassey pairing up with Dizzee Rascal and the return of the old favourites Lily Allen and Noel Coward, this time singing Paula Abdul. In what other show will you see that?

Elsewhere Florence (of And The Machine fame) gets mocked with laser-guided accuracy, while the mischievous impersonation of Mark Morrison’s squeaky voice is instantly hilarious. Everything, however apparently bitchy, is however done with real affection; Frisky And Mannish clearly love pop – why else would they appropriate its glamorous excesses so thoroughly.

They’ve made no real progress since last year, but they don’t need to, since it was so good to start with. Returnees will presumably be more happy with more of the same – I certainly was – while the substantial number of F&M virgins, revealed in a straw poll at the top of the gig, will hopefully be blown away, too.

Frisky and Mannish’s show is, again, the most fun you can have on the Fringe without chemicals – and I daresay it’s even better with them…

Review date: 16 Aug 2010
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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