Edinburgh Fringe 2019
Cerebral entertainment in a witty hour of song and patter from that doyen of the Fringe, Kit Hesketh-Harvey and his partner in rhyme James McConnel.
On a dreary Edinburgh afternoon, what better place to head to than the elegant Radisson Blu Hotel on George IV Bridge for an hour of banter (nay, badinage), mirth and music with Kit Hesketh-Harvey and his partner in rhyme and song, James McConnel.
This is Hesketh-Harvey’s 40th successive year at the Fringe and, looking around the room, there appeared to be quite a few devotees of the quaint, slightly old-fashioned cabaret entertainment that this duet is so well known for. And if ever an audience mirrors its performers, this is it as the Prosecco was out on the front row, glasses clinking, the chatter a mix of rounded vowels and extended consonants.
Yes, the Morningside Mafia was out in force, 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. So quite how the quartet from Yorkshire in front of me slipped in I’ve no idea.
The show started with a lament to the fact that raising money to perform in Edinburgh is becoming a real challenge, one that defeats many artists. Perhaps our new leader, bicycling Boris, might be persuaded to steer some of that extra £350 million per week he claims will be heading into the Treasury coffers post Halloween to support struggling Fringe artists. Like Kit and McConnel, for example.
Onwards to a ditty suggesting that it’s actually the Hispanics who will happily build a wall to protect Mexico if Trump does kick indeed them all out of America. And the absurdity of the extremes of political correctness came in for its usual bashing with our apparent obsession with gender giving rise to a very well-constructed tale – for example, just think of all those popular show tunes that will need to be re-written and re-learned if we insist on full gender neutrality.
“The Man From Amazon” proved to be biting as well as comedic, lampooning the corporation as well as castigating it for destroying high streets, exploiting its workforce and never contributing to the societies that it allegedly serves. And there was a lovely parody of Jacob Really-Smug dispensing advice on how to fund one’s education if one’s parents couldn’t afford to send one to Eton and Oxbridge. Again, funny with a twist.
There was a refreshing change in balance to this year’s show as well, with McConnel playing much more of a role, leading a lot of the badinage, delivering a couple of solos and there was much more emphasis on duets, rather than the usual series of Hesketh-Harvey solos. And the latter really turned up the camp-o-meter this year to excellent effect, breaking down that fourth wall on a number of occasions, keeping the audience engaged all the time.
They really do 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. They are masters of comic timing as well – the pauses they insert are just the right length to set up the inevitable punch-line or denouement that follows.
It’s all very clever stuff – tell a story to a simple piece of music, often using a subject about which many in the room will have an opinion or might express concern. The frequent use of alliteration, innuendo, double entendre and neat word play all accentuate the intellectual feel to the show. All in all, another compelling hour from two very clever entertainers.