Review: Fascinating Aïda, Cheap Flights – Charing Cross *****

Like a Weimar Republic cabaret fused with a slightly squiffy Grandmother at Christmas, an evening in the company of Fascinating Aïda is like slipping on a comfortable pair of slippers to discover razor blades in the lining.  And for that, let us be grateful.  In these days of anodyne talent shows and bland reality TV dramas, Fascinating Aïda have lost none of their satirical bite over the years.  They remain as sharp, acerbic and foul mouthed as ever.  The first, of many, references to female genitalia comes just two minutes into the show, and the remainder of the evening flies giddily past in a hail of political satire, celebrity puncturing and side-splitting mirth.

The lugubrious tones of Dillie Keane have always proved a delicious counterpoint to Adèle Anderson’s mellifluous Malory Towers schoolmistress. Now, joined on this outing by Sarah-LouiseYoung, they have found a deeper musical tone which is well suited to their cabaret format, and, in the slightly sepulchral Charing Cross Theatre, a wonderful choice of venue for their gorgeously dark view of the world.

One of Fascinating Aïda’s strengths has always been their Pagliaccio-esque ability to turn from comedy to tragedy in the blink of an eye

Never ones to rest on past laurels, for their first West End show since 2003 Fascinating Aïda have introduced some dazzling new material, Down With The Kids proving to be an instant classic, refreshed older material, such as Best Seller, so comprehensively that it sounds new minted, and wisely kept some old standards intact. While this performance is more upbeat and pacy than previous outings, one of Fascinating Aïda’s strengths has always been their Pagliaccio-esque ability to turn from comedy to tragedy in the blink of an eye, and this is no less evident in Keane’s plangent homage to friends passed.

Keane and Anderson have proved their song writing mettle in a partnership that has lasted for more than two decades, and they are without doubt, wits of Wildean proportions.  Part of their enduring success is the evident bond between them, coupled with fierce intellect and a finger on the pulse of popular culture and politics.  The Government, of course, comes in for a drubbing but for this show their most barbed arrows are aimed at celebrities; James Corden, Cheryl Cole, Jordan, Wayne Rooney, and Jeremy Clarkson are mercilessly ribbed, while a reference to Heather Mills McCartney has the audience gasping in shock before howling with laughter.

Although becoming YouTube sensations at the age of (cough) 49, may seem slightly innocuous, Fascinating Aïda, who have always been thankfully too fruity for television, are now reaching the worldwide audiences that they deserve.  Cheap Flights, with more than seven million views has gone ‘fungal’, or perhaps it was ‘vinyl’, while Dogging is, ahem, chasing up the rear.  Twenty-eight years on, these Great Dames of cabaret show no sign of slowing up, and as the global outlook gets bleaker, Fascinating Aïda just get better.

***** (5 stars)
Runs until January 7th 2012
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