Fascinating Aida – Charm Offensive – St James Theatre

Liza Pulman, Dillie Keane and Adele Anderson – also known as Fascinating Aida – performed Charm Offensive at the St James Theatre, London

Liza Pulman, Dillie Keane and Adele Anderson – also known as Fascinating Aida – performed Charm Offensive at the St James Theatre, London

Fascinating Aida performed Charm Offensive at the St James Theatre, London.

The intelligent addition to any celebration of light entertainment, Fascinating Aida have woven the London Festival of Cabaret into their continuing tour of the British Isles. On the verge of becoming a national institution, the triumvirate of Dillie Keane, Adele Anderson and Liza Pulman swept onto the black-box stage, swathed in satin, Graeco-Roman gowns and immediately brought the house down with their opening number ‘We’re Next’ – a wry ditty structured around the concept that maturity is pretty much an omen to death. It might be a questionable sentiment for an opener, but the members of FA pulled it off with consummate flair and their tongues set firmly in their cheeks.

During the introduction, something seemed slightly amiss, and it appears that Keane had broken a rib on Friday and that a selection of Alan Burkitt’s amusing choreography would be compromised. Although audiences are unlikely to buy tickets for FA’s terpsichorean feats, it evidently impacted on the energy of the show, and while none of the enjoyment was lost, we could only guess the amount of pain Keane must have been in.

By necessity I suspect, this was a slightly truncated version of Charm Offensive, with Keane battling on like a real trouper (and with an evening show to perform too!). There were plenty of old favourites present including Pulman’s ‘Ofsted Song’, with music by Sir Arthur Sullivan and subtitled ‘A Teacher’s Lot is Not a Happy One’ to Keane’s ‘Dogging’, the humour of which remains undimmed, even with a broken rib. FA’s affection and expertise in ‘The Bulgarian Song Cycle’ continues unabated, with song subjects as diverse as Tom Cruise, twerking and Putin annexing Scotland.

With FA it’s not all about shock tactics and laughs of course, and some of their musical numbers such as ‘Look Mummy No Hands’ and particularly ’Old Home’ are beautifully crafted ballads in their own right. One of the new numbers presented in this show has been ten years in the making, but is definitely worth the wait. Anderson’s ‘Prisoner of Gender’ details a life growing up with a gender identity crisis and the decision to finally come out as a transgendered person. It’s a deeply personal song for Anderson, and while it is incredibly poignant, they manage to get the tone just right. It also cunningly rhymes the word ‘puberty’ with ’Schuberty’, which makes you simultaneously laugh and groan, but desperately want to hear more from these undisputed queens of cabaret.

 Paul Vale

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Julie Atherton – Tempting Fate – St James Theatre Studio, London – Review

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