Edinburgh Fringe 2014
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 setting 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 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.
This being in part a review of the last twelve months in song we had to address, early on in the proceedings, the upcoming Scottish Independence vote through a lament for the historical loss any parting would occasion. Or was that hysterical loss? Anyway, on we went to pay homage to an Antipodean currently being detained at Her Majesty’s pleasure for undertaking acts deemed inappropriate for a didgeridoo holder, a lament for a luckless German with political associations (not Angela Merkel but Kirsten Mehr, wife of one Nigel Farage), Pippa Middleton’s finest features and our boys in blue, for whom so much has gone pear shaped these past few years, are lampooned to that well-known chorus from G&S’s Pirates of Penzance.
But there’s a different side emerging to this cabaret act – one that is more reflective on issues we all face from time to time. The ageing demographic and the loss of friends and family get an altogether more sombre approach. Then the mood changed again, back to the risqué as the duo explored the fact that the incidence of sexually transmitted diseases is now higher amongst those over the age of 50 than it is for the younger generations. The mind boggled at this one, but I checked out the story and it’s from 2012, and their lyrics around this were just hilarious, conjuring up images that left not a dry eye in the house.
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 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 most of this has 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.
Sent into the dying embers of a late Fringe evening with a warning not to dine at a certain well known chain that might rhyme with Fernando, we are left to reflect on a compelling hour from two very clever entertainers that was just right for the plumy voweled brigade.