Yesterday was the first time in far too long that I went to the theatre. It was also utterly convincing that I should go more often – what an utterly brilliant way to reintroduce myself to “cultcha”.
Having been introduced to Fascinating Aïda some six months ago or so, I was naturally already enamoured of them. If you’re not yet au fait, I highly recommend you familiarise yourself with them. Nonetheless, I had never seen them live.
Led by the utterly magnificent Dillie Keane, whose near 30 years at the helm don’t show at all, drives the troupe and the audience as one with a force and exuberance which belie her age, and shows how very “down with the kids” she actually is, throughout the 2 hours or so of the performance. Given her age, oeuvre and style, it is perhaps an unavoidable comparison, but her style is highly reminiscent of Victoria Wood. A woman of a certain age, sitting at a piano, singing satirically? Yeah, that’s Victoria Wood. Add in a wonderfully broad, rich vocabulary and a wonderful assumption that her audience will follow and understand what’s being said (rather than dumbing down and speaking to the lowest common denominator, as is so often the case) and the comparison becomes more cemented.
Yet, this is *not* Victoria Wood, rather a completely different experience. Dillie Keane is utterly and unapologetically Dillie Keane, and nobody else could be her. Her linguistic and pianistic dexterity are of an ilk with the marvellous Tim Minchin, and the subtle world-weariness and cynicism are completely in keeping with his work; however, whereas Minchin has a definite agenda, and message to impart (which is not in an wise a bad thing!), Keane is more sardonically observing and commenting, pointing out the insanity and hilarity of existence, touching briefly on its pointlessness though never sinking to depressiveness. Further to this, the content is updated and added to regularly, with portions of the “Bulgarian Folk Songs” last night referring to both the Lance Armstrong fiasco and George Osborne’s encounter with the proles on the train! Wonderful!
Adèle Anderson, the second longest serving (is it a sentence?) member of the group, adds a wonderful counterpoint to Keane’s slightly more polished persona and performance; vocally not the strongest performer, there is yet something wonderfully engaging about the gravelly, harsher aspects to her singing.
The “rotating” member of the troupe, currently Liza (with a ‘zee’) Pulman, complements the two older ladies, with both a youthful exuberance and a truly wondrous soprano voice; were she to star on the stages of the West End, she would seem not one jot out of place. As with Keane, Pulman’s upper class voice, decorous deportment, and slight priggishness (presumably accentuated for the purposes of the persona) contrast deliciously with the sheer filth of the humour of many of the songs (I’m thinking of YOU, Dogging!) adding to the almost guilty-secret of laughing at some of the content.
Were the show to consist solely of satire, that alone would be a joy; yet two of the songs were not at all satirical, rather absolutely touching and moving songs. “Goodbye Old Friends” had genuine tears in my eyes, and I think you’d be hard pressed to find a more genuine song anywhere.
The group will be touring again next year, for their 30th anniversary, and if you can’t see them before, see them then. Utter joy!