Director: Pip Broughton
Reviewer: Dave Cunningham
The basic concept behind Fascinating Aida is simple – the humour comes from confounding expectations with a trio of smartly dressed apparently upper class women performing risqué material.
Charm Offensive is described by founder member Dillie Keane as the trio’s most personal show. As one of the songs concerns Adele Anderson’s gender dysfunction it hard to argue the point. The new show sees the trio facing up to their age. The opening number acknowledges the inevitability of mortality and another concerns the deferment of retirement prompted by the unwanted return of children to the nest. There is even a poignant song on the ache left by a departed parent ‘Look Mummy, No Hands’
Yet Fascinating Aida are determined to grow old disgracefully. ‘ We’re Not Done Yet’ starts out as the pampered baby boomers apologising for the excesses of their generation but ends with the trio smugly gloating over the mess they have left behind for their successors. To prove she is down with the kids Keane adopts their persona of rapper P. Dillie – she might not be hip but at least she still has her own hips.
A cabaret atmosphere is hard to achieve in the Lowry’s large Lyric Theatre but director Pip Broughton tries his best. Lamps, instead of spotlights, provide discrete lighting and the format is kept simple rather than theatrical with Keane providing piano accompaniment for the songs. In such a format Anderson suddenly belting across the stage as a Gallic cyclist comes as a complete surprise.
Fascinating Aida is a well-balanced group. While Keane is the obvious leader soprano Liza Pulman’s bright and cheerful personality is offset by Adele Anderson’s straight-faced almost dour approach.
The material does not outstay its welcome. A striking feature of both acts is the group performing in character as the Bulgarian Choir. The songs are brutality short, stunningly offensive and incredibly funny with brief descriptions that perfectly capture (and condemn) the likes of Tony Blair, the chairman of Nestlé, Posh Spice and Kerry Katonia.
Although the bulk of the material is new the group still find time to squeeze in old favourites on the joys of ‘ Dogging’ and ‘Cheap Flights’. Charm Offensive is such a carefully prepared show that a single ad lib actually throws Pulman for a loop. It is surprising, therefore, that the group return for an encore with a completely new song extolling the qualities of the town and theatre in which they are performing. The Lowry, they advise, was such a lovely place before a Nandos and an outlet lowered the tone of the area. Funny and true.
Reviewed on 9th November 2014