Airnadette: We Will Dub You

Note: This review is from 2013

Review by Steve Bennett

This could be the ultimate jukebox musical, since it packs the hits in so tightly there’s rarely need for more than a few bars of the chorus. The dialogue, likewise, is comprised entirely from lines you might already know, snatched from classic TV and movie scripts.

And not only have Airnadette not written any of their show, in the conventional sense  – they don’t play any of the instruments, or sing any of the songs, either. For their unique comedy angle is that they are air musicians, miming enthusiastically along to the dense mash-ups.

It’s a rather odd experience. Brilliant films are reduced only to their quotable lines, entirely shorn of context, and just when the song gets a hook, it’s over. It’s entertainment for those with the attention span of a mayfly with a remote.

These flibbertigibbets have been thorough and eclectic in filleting popular culture. You can hear extracts from Apocalypse Now, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Pulp Fiction, Friends, True Romance, the Blues Brothers, This Is Spinal Tap and that old Wasssup? TV ad, all within the opening few minutes. And where else would Smack My Bitch Up segue into the old Thames TV ident (quite an impressive reference, considering they are French, and this is their English debut) Of course, the lines are sharp - that’s how come they came to be so famous in the first place – and much of the fun seems to come from recognising the sources of each snatched sentence.

They act out their scenes with gusto, if not precision. The joke is they are sloppy; drunk or coked-up wrecks who can just about pull it together for a show until the infighting gradually splits them apart. That’s as far as plot goes between the ribald slapstick, interspersed with their avaricious producer clowning around with (a sometimes overexcitable) audience to cover up the costume changes. He, at least, has his own voice.

In looks, the team cove all the rock bases. Gunther Love is a Freddie-Mercury alike and the only gymnastic dancer of the bunch, Chateau Brutal a 70s wildman, M-Rodz a hip-hop geezer-ette, Moche Pitte a New Romantic, Jean Francoise a leather-clad rock chic, and Scotch Brit a slutty Britney Spears type.

The have spirit in their well-choreographed set pieces, but the joke wears thin. Occasionally a track will cut in with perfect surprise, but generally the level is that one character will say – or rather lipsynch – a line like ‘shut up’ then in kicks the Black Eyed Peas singing same, and so on and so on. And because it’s only snippets, there’s a frustration that every great song is curtailed so briefly... although the alternative of playing out each track would certainly prove too much of a stretch.

More than once in this show did I think of how cabaret artiste Dickie Beau, who makes lipsynch both poignant and excruciatingly funny in his depiction of an interview with a bitter and intoxicated Judy Garland. Airnadette looks very shallow in comparison.

Yet they had the Udderbelly audience (many of whom appeared to be existing fans) up on their feet at the performance’s end, as if the sextext had sung, played and written the hits themselves. It is, admittedly, very easy to forget that it’s all on tape.

Producers are surely hoping this will be the party hit of this year’s Edinburgh. But it might equally end up being Jive Bunny: The Musical. It’s a fine distinction.

Review date: 29 May 2013
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Underbelly Festival

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