Edinburgh Fringe 2012
The Blitz Sisters are appearing as part of the Laughing Horse Free Festival. They present their own take on the nostalgic songs of the 1940’s. This female duo sing songs made famous by such artists as Dame Vera Lynn, The Andrew Sisters, Peggy Lee and George Formby.
Neville Chamberlain’s announces that we are at war with Germany. Two young women enter dressed in army uniforms, their vibrant red lipstick and permanent waved hair immediately transport you back to the war years. Union Jacks are draped from their chrome grilled microphones and they sway along to a backing track, the sound of which is the unmistakable musical strains of a 1940’s big band. They welcome the audience and proceed to perform a mix of British and American tunes that were hits during the Second World War and responsible for raising the morale of battle worn troops who dreamt of home. The women are informative about the music selected and the recording artist that was mainly associated with the particular songs success.
From Old Blighty we are treated to classics such as Dame Vera Lynn’s, White Cliffs of Dover”, Lili Marlene and George Formby’s, “When I’m cleaning Windows”. The latter gives them the opportunity to pull cheeky faces and play up the suggestive lyrics. They take the opportunity during Glenn Millers, “In the Mood” for a costume change. The change of attire ominously signals the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour and the arrival of the Americans in the war. Here they embrace The Andrew Sisters’, “Don’t sit under the Apple Tree, and “Bei Mir Bist du Schön” plus Peggy Lee’s sublime “Why Don’t You Do Right”. The audience, of mixed ages, adore it.
Despite the audience’s enthusiasm, something was bothering me throughout the performance, and it was this. They had gone to all the trouble of wearing the clothes of the era, and called themselves “the sweethearts of the 40’s” yet between songs reverted back to their ordinary selves. This in itself is no crime but these girls looked extremely uncomfortable on stage. They often sang out of tune, both girls lost the melody during, “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered”, plus their synchronised dance routines, which at this point in the run should have been tight, were stilted and frequently out of time. In-between and during songs they seemed to struggle with smiling and appeared conflicted between the personae they were trying to project and their real identities. Why did they not just remain in character for the duration of the performance? The costume change should have triggered an injection of energy and the chance to let go and really swing – I’d like to have seen them capture this mood reflecting the American influence on British culture.
However, there was barely a free seat in the house at the free event. It’s an afternoon performance and the audience offer animated applause after every song. The girls thank them profusely for coming along and staying in an over hot room for the whole performance. They finish with “We’ll Meet Again”, and the crowd are overcome and sing along cheering their approval.