Edinburgh Fringe 2016
Cerebral entertainment for the plum-voweled battalions of Edinburgh society in a witty hour of song and patter from that doyen of the Fringe, Kit Hesketh-Harvey and his partner in rhyme James McConnel.
The sun is easing its way gracefully over the yardarm (or it would be if you could see it behind the dense clouds) in the elegant surroundings of the G&V Royal Mile Hotel, an idyllic setting for early evening banter (nay, badinage), mirth and music with Kit Hesketh-Harvey and his partner in rhyme and song, James McConnel.
And if ever an audience mirrored its performers, this was it. Judging by the plumy vowels, quixotic headgear, scarily-coloured trousers and proliferation of G&Ts, this was just the segment of the socio-economic strata at which Hesketh-Harvey and McConnel’s staple of cerebral, witty repartee and satirical song-writing is aimed.
And what a year it’s been in terms of material for their mercurial wit. The Olympics provided us with a topical opening number in a song full of Hesketh-Harvey’s clever double entendre with just that hint of sexual dubiety. Hard on its heels came a version of Nellie The Elephant dedicated to one Donald Trump’s efforts to persuade the American voter that he has what it takes to be President. Given his pivotal role on the TV show The Apprentice, Trump is good at firing things I suppose. Let’s hope he doesn’t end up pressing the wrong button.
We then had a number dedicated to those middle-class, worried-well types who insist on regaling you with details of their many and varied allergies (come on, we all know someone like that) and an amusing lament to that stoical group of females known as golf widows.
This is Hesketh-Harvey’s 38th year at the Fringe and he shows no signs of slowing down. His prolific writing skills extended to a highly amusing tale about a pair of geriatric, kleptomaniac widows (and society’s need to show clemency, despite the havoc they’d caused in Mark’s and Spencer’s) and a rip-roaringly funny version of My Way, skilfully reworked to beg the question “Why May?” in honour of our latest (unelected) Prime Minister.
It’s all very clever stuff – take a pretty familiar or simple piece of music and tell a new story to it. The audience will recognize the tune which then helps them pick up on and appreciate the words. And the frequents use of 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 at their finest (albeit absent their elegant Edwardian dress and plumage) and is nicely complemented by the urbane McConnel. They sound and act like many of the devoted married couples that are the backbone of their audience, finishing each other’s sentences as the patter cascades and flows, appearing quite spontaneous but no doubt much of this has been meticulously scripted. They are masters of comic timing as well – the pauses they insert are all perfectly rehearsed and set up the inevitable punch-line or denouement that follows.
Sent out into the damp embers of a Fringe evening via a raucous rendering of Aida’s Grande March reset as a lament to a currently rather prominent extremist religious group, we are left to reflect on a compelling hour from two very clever entertainers that was just right for the plumy voweled brigade.