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Edinburgh Fringe 2013

Kit Hesketh-Harvey and James McConnel

Kit Hesketh-Harvey and James McConnel

Genre: Cabaret

Venue: Edinburgh Academy, Henderson Row


Low Down

Cerebral entertainment for the plum-trousered battalions of Edinburgh society in a witty hour of song and patter from that doyen of the Fringe, Kit Hesketh-Harvey and his new partner in rhyme James McConnel.


Elegant Stockbridge, centre of Edinburgh’s New Town, is bathed in afternoon sunlight, an idyllic setting for a tea-time concert of banter (nay, badinage), mirth and music with Kit Hesketh-Harvey. Kit has, of course, recently lost his Widow (pianist Richard Sisson) but has acquired a new partner in rhyme and song in James McConnel, ensuring that his double act has lost none of its cerebral feel.

And if ever an audience mirrored its performers, this was it. Judging by the plum coloured trousers, quixotic headgear and rounded vowels (and that was just the men), this was just the segment of the socio-economic strata that Hesketh-Harvey and McConnel’s staple of witty repartee and satirical song-writing is aimed at.
This being a review of the last twelve months in song, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to ignore the controversy (and booing) caused by Castorf’s latest staging of Wagner’s Ring Cycle in Bayreuth. Here, however, we avoid 16 hours of vibrato and instead get the three part Die Gross und Kinderstroken, highlighting the alleged sexual indiscretions of erstwhile and current entertainers. Near the mark? Yes. Bitingly satirical? Yes. Too much for the gentility of Stockbridge?   Most definitely. 
But other numbers lamenting the plethora of comedy shows at the Fringe (to the exclusion of seemingly almost everything else), Russell Crowe’s singing (or lack thereof) in Les Mis and the possible departure of Scotland from the Union all draw guffaws and applause from the small, but appreciative gathering in the impressive James Maxwell Theatre at Edinburgh Academy.
Nigella Lawson’s recent tiff with (now) ex-husband Charles Saatchi has her serving him up with improbable concoctions at meal times, Pippa Middleton’s finest features are gently explored and our boys in blue, for whom so much has gone pear shaped this year, are lampooned to that well-known chorus from G&S’s Pirates of Penzance. 
It’s all very clever stuff – take a pretty familiar piece of music and tell a new story to it. The audience will recognize the tune which helps them pick up on and appreciate the words. Alliteration, innuendo, double entendre and neat word play all accentuate the intellectual feel to the show.   
The melodramatic, gently camp delivery of Hesketh-Harvey is reminiscent of Hinge and Brackett (albeit absent their elegant Edwardian dress and plumage) and is nicely complemented by the urbane McConnell. The relative newness of their partnership is no barrier to their sounding and acting like many of the devoted married couples that are the backbone of their audience. They finish each other’s sentences and the patter cascades and flows, appearing quite spontaneous but no doubt having been meticulously scripted. They are masters of comic timing as well – the pauses they insert are all perfectly rehearsed and allow the audience to feel they are part of the performance.
The result is a compelling hour of entertainment from two very clever entertainers. Just right for the plum-trousered brigade.