Edinburgh Fringe 2011
The comic lyrics and gentle melodies of Michael Flanders and Donald Swann are amongst the most recognizable in the British songbook. This loving recreation of the much admired double act has regularly been brought to the Fringe by Tim FitzHigham and Duncan Walsh Atkins.
The works of Flanders and Swann (including The Hippopotamus with the rousing unforgettable “Mud, mud, glorious mud” and I’m a Gnu) are classics of Britain’s long tradition of comic songwriting. The two were also recognized as brilliant performers, a romantic throwback to the Edwardian music hall tradition. Walsh Atkins as Swann has the unenviable task of sharing the stage with not only the shade of Michael Flanders but also the irrepressible Tim FitzHigam – the man who rowed a Thomas Crapper bath from France to Tower Bridge (really!). That Walsh Atkins succeeds so masterfully is the underpinning brilliance of the double act. A good straightman makes the difference between showing off and showing off something marvellous.
FitzHigam captivates the audience. His detailed knowledge of his subject and engaging manner makes him the ideal guide to the lost world of the recent past. A pianist with vocal accompaniment require simple staging, but they made expert use of the limited space available. This was particularly so for the parts featuring the dulcet tones of the tubular steel music stand which, with the aid of a mouthpiece, section of hose pipe and plastic funnel, comically stood in for a missing French Horn.
With the advent of YouTube, Flanders and Swann are connecting to a new generation of fans. Flanders and Swann does exactly what it says on the tin by providing a sparkling hour of witty banter which recreates the magic of the dynamic duo. Much more than a nostalgic love-in Flanders and Swann also showcases two contemporary, must-see talents in the forms of Walsh Atkins and FitzHigam.