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Edinburgh Fringe 2017

Kit Hesketh-Harvey and James McConnel – Pheasant Laughter

Kit Hesketh-Harvey and James McConnel

Genre: Cabaret, Comedy, Live Music

Venue: G&V Hotel, George IV Bridge


Low Down

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.


To the elegant surroundings of the G&V Royal Mile Hotel, an idyllic setting for an early afternoon session on of 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.  We had a veritable rainbow of brightly coloured trousers and enough plummy vowels in the room to make a sizeable duff of that delicious fruit.  Couple that with the quixotic headgear often sported by the Morningside mafia and you had the quintessential 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 clamour (well, in certain quarters of the SNP at any rate) for a second independence referendum provided the first topic for a blast of satire with just that hint of double entendre.  The impressively moustachioed Hesketh-Harvey, looking a bit like a cross between Freddie Mercury and Ghandi, then turned his attention the man who is currently, single handedly, keeping half the world’s satirists in gainful employment, one Donald Trump and his obsession with building walls along America’s borders.

A plea for people to get off their phones (and, by implication, give each other more personal attention) was followed by McConnel confessing that the love of his life was, actually, Mary Berry of Bake Off fame – there was more innuendo in this tribute to the baking business than currants in an Eccles cake.

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 rip-roaringly funny version of My Way, skilfully reworked to beg the question “Why May?” in honour of our Prime Minister’s apparent ability to muck things up a bit.  But he can turn on the pathos as well when he needs to, as a plea for the human race to chuck less stuff all over the place set to The Swan from Le Carnaval des Animaux by Camille Saint-Saens showed .

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 frequent 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.

A marvellous, triple counterpoint rendition by the audience of When The Foreman Bares His Steel, a popular aria from The Pirates of Penzance, brought the show to a suitably rousing conclusion. All that remained was a homage to a well-known restaurant chain, a party piece of an encore which didn’t so much go viral as bacterial when it was posted a few years back on YouTube.

A compelling hour from two very clever entertainers that was just right for the plumy voweled brigade.