The Kransky Sisters: Three Bags Full
Show type: West End run
Mourne, Eve, and their oddly reclusive and rather peculiar sibling, Dawn, present an evening of uniquely homespun cover versions of songs from performers as disparate as Devo and Talking Heads to AC/DC and Steppenwolf. All interspersed with darkly humorous tales from their Australian homeland and their travels to the UK.
There are horrible, dark secrets in the Kransky Sisters’ fictional backstory. Brought up in the simple country town of Esk, Queensland, they were kept isolated from the outside world. So today, as buttoned-down middle-aged spinsters, they struggle to comprehend society, barely stifling horrific childhood memories and battling to repress their confusing sexual urges. They are locked in a bond of co-dependent misery, such a closeted relationship being the only place they can find comfort.
This may seem like the précis for a bleak psychological drama inspired by the Joseph Fritzl case, but the Kranskys are a comedy act – albeit a bizarre, downbeat, delicately awkward comedy one. Their humour is so underplayed, it’s unlikely to have you rolling in the aisles, but audiences still enjoy basking in their quirky, droll charm.
The backbone of their Three Bags Full show is the music: pop hits that they’ve heard on the wireless as they drive around in their 1958 Morris Major, then recreate for our pleasure – stripped of any rock-and-roll fervour by performers who don’t have the cultural reference points to know what they are singing about.
Mourne is the alpha-freak, the dominant lead singer; Eve her simpering sidekick, echoing the end of her sibling’s sentence. On tuba is the mute Dawn – replacing another sister, Arva, who has somehow mysteriously disappeared since the Kranskys were last in Britain, playing the 2006 Edinburgh Fringe. They’ve raided their simple homestead for the other instruments: a Sixties reed keyboard; a saw, played with a bow to surprisingly haunting effect; a kitchen pot and a toilet brush.
Wearing identically austere blouse-and-skirt combos, and more kohl than a Russell Brand lookalikes’ convention, the sisters boast an unlikely repertoire that includes such songs as Pull Up To My Bumper, a Bee Gees medley, Plastic Bertrand’s Ca Plane Pour Moi and, best of the lot, Jamelia’s Superstar – all performed with relentless naivity.
There’s plenty to enjoy in these twisted cover versions; including trying to figure out what song they’re interpreting before they get to the chorus. It’s not always easy, as there are some properly obscure tracks here, such as Devo’s Whip It, which reached the giddy heights of no 51 in 1980.
Their deadpanned anecdotes between the songs, however, are sometimes harder to stick with, as they are so affected and lacking in energy.
There’s a story of being incarcerated in a ship’s hull, with only rats for company – and for food – which is just too morbid; recounting their trip to Amsterdam includes every supposedly-naïve references you could easily predict on the red-light district and coffee shops; and the surreal tale of delivering stuffed animals around Southern England is just too disconnected to reality to preserve with. (And one extended joke requires the entire audience to instinctively know what budgie-smugglers are… a reflex knowledge of Australian slang not everyone is likely to have).
But a little charm goes a long way, and their weirdness certainly has a unique appeal, especially if you’re a fan of peculiarly muted comedy.
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
London, October 2008
Date of review: Oct 2008