review star review star review star review blank star review blank star

Frisky & Mannish: Pop Centre Plus

Note: This review is from 2011

Review by Steve Bennett

How apt that one of the campest double acts in comedy are in possibly the biggest tent in London, as pop parodists Frisky & Mannish take over the Udderbelly for their third Edinburgh-bound show.

Having themed previous offerings around school and college, this year their focus is the world of work. At this rate, they’ll be retired by 2013. But, to be blunt, there are already signs of flagging. Not in their vibrant energy, which is as raucous as ever, but in the creativity of their pastiches. Some of the biting wit seems to have been traded in for audience rabble-rousing.

The rabble, though, are more than happy to be roused. That F&M receive two standing ovations from the sold-out crowd is ample evidence of that. Everyone’s more than willing to rise to their feet and dance the Macarena when the raunchily domineering Frisky commands them to, and when, as their finale, they assemble a a boy band from the audience, each with their cliched traits, it goes down a storm. But maybe I’ve seen Adam Hills do this routine too often to be impressed.

But I’m still a fan. Frisky and Mannish have often split opinion, with the most common criticism that it’s a case of style over content. But like the pop they mock, the style IS the content. The showmanship is faultless, they can belt out a tune, and there’s attention to detail in every aspect of the presentation, from the multi-coloured outfits to Lady Frisky’s hair, which appears to be by Stabilo.

When they bowl on stage with an energetic, fast-paced medley of work-related chart-busters, it looks like we’re in for a treat. Then comes the main bit of crowd word, everyone up on their feet for a convoluted way of dividing the room into five tribes, and I – in an admittedly small minority – wish they’d stop this nonsense and return to the serious business of picking apart the world of pop.

However, when that world already contains the preposterous likes of Lady Gaga, Dappy and Jedward, it doesn’t take much to mock them. In fact, just one perfectly judged pause – the musical equivalent of an archly-raised eyebrow – to reduces the words of Katy Perry to ridicule. F&M just have to let the lyrics speak for themselves to expose the jibberish.

As fine purveyors of cheesy mash-ups the forte of these original pop bitches is the sort of musical juxtapositions that Bill Bailey first perfected. Frisky And Mannish’s nursery rhymes medley as if sung by Girls Aloud – performed here as an encore – is a classic, but none of their new offerings come close to that brilliance

Ideas such as the grime version of the Carpenters’ saccharine   On Top Of The World or the Friends theme delivered in a laden Germanic cabaret style raise a smile, but don’t quite have the oomph to stick in the mind. Similarly the ‘phases of Madonna’ montage, from Dick Tracy vamp to Kabbalahtechno and beyond, is expertly done, but the target seems too easy.

To be fair, other subjects are less obvious; and the better your knowledge of pop culture, the more you’ll appreciate their barbed-but-affectionate piss-takes of the likes of Jessie J and Rihanna. Frisky and Mannish clearly want to emulate the musical icons they mock; but they should be wary of letting their performance talents overwhelm the wit.

Review date: 8 Jul 2011
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Underbelly Festival

We see you are using AdBlocker software. Chortle relies on advertisers to fund this website so it’s free for you, so we would ask that you disable it for this site. Our ads are non-intrusive and relevant. Help keep Chortle viable.