Everyone's got their favourite mashup, whether it's
Kylie/New Order on ‘Can't Get Blue Monday Out of My Head', or Mylo Vs Miami Sound
Machine doing ‘Dr Pressure'. Indeed, any tech-savvy mix-master can make their
own unofficial mashup. But if you're a mega-talented cabaret duo with a wicked
sense of humour, you won't be needing any software.
Enter Frisky & Mannish, the breakout sensation of the
2009 Edinburgh Festival Fringe. A duo of musical mimics in their mid-twenties, Felicity
Fitz-Frisky (vocals) and Hansel Amadeus Mannish (piano and vocals) perform pop mashups in a cabaret style, and with more twists and turns than a basket of curly
Review: There is a line in Frisky & Mannish's musical misappropriation of the Ting Tings' track ‘That's Not My Name' when they weave in a direct quote from a recent critic's review. Here's one from Time Out Sydney they can use for their Mardi Gras season run at the Opera House studio until 7 March, if they so wish. "Frisky & Mannish are clever, inventive, polished, prodigiously talented and extremely funny. Five glittering stars."
This cabaret duo have taken the UK by storm in the last year and were one of the stand-out shows at last year's Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Our sister Time Out titles in London and New York have raved about them. And now we can whole-heartedly join in the chorus.
Their shtick is to play around with popular songs. This they do through the conceit of a day at the School of Pop; each song a different lesson. Thus we learn about Tudor history through the prism of TLC's ‘No Scrubs'. And we have a musical spelling class via a medley of tracks such as ‘R-E-S-P-E-C-T' and ‘D-I-S-C-O'. Meanwhile, melding the highbrow with the lowbrow, people's champion Lily Allen wryly responds to a musical challenge laid down by literary giant Noel Coward.
With her booming voice, Frisky conducts most of the lessons - part overbearing school matron, (ample) part saucy dominatrix with a lot of front. You can imagine her wielding a whip with relish. Mannish, on vocals and keys, is more than merely a classroom assistant. He is a kohl-eyed musical sprite in iridescent meggings with perfect comical timing. Both are very talented all-round cabaret performers: musicians, dancers, comedians, actors.
There were a couple of bum notes on opening night. They might want to edit out the sketch that lampoons the short-lived UK girl band All Saints. And there was an incongruous and borderline off-colour dance routine from a partially-sighted paralympian that limped down a blind alley. But otherwise the show is a complete triumph. Without spoiling it, listen out in particular for Meatloaf as if sung by a toddler. So, so wrong it's right.
Boys and girls: the School of Pop is in session. Book in for a class now. Dan Rookwood
"A lot of the reviews of the act have picked out the parody
of Kate Bush and Kate Nash," explains Mannish, real name Matthew Jones, on the
phone from a frigid North London. "We take the two songs and
put them together. Kate Nash sings ‘Wuthering Heights' and then Kate Bush comes
in and starts singing ‘Foundations' and it becomes an overlapping thing where
they're both singing about the same man. We call it the ‘Kate Bash'."
In School of Pop,
Destiny's Child, Lily Allen, Girls Aloud, Coldplay, Lady Gaga and George
Michael are just some who get their DNA muddled up in the malfunctioning comedy teleportation
device. But this is travesty with a brain. Currently on YouTube is a Frisky
& Mannish rendition of the Pussycat Dolls and will.i.am's ‘Beep' performed
as a music hall number, which drains all the R'n'B cool, leaving just the
ickiness. "We like to take acts who have a real consciousness of their own
sexiness," says Jones, "and point out how ludicrous it is."
Oxford graduates who met in an amateur production of Guys
& Dolls, Jones and Laura Corcoran
(Frisky) went on to perform together in the famous Oxford Revue. They were
eking out livings as actor/musicians when an invitation came to fill a
ten-minute spot in a charity gig on Battersea
"I think they thought we'd just do some standards. We
thought, let's do something interesting. Laura had this book of pop songs and
we went through them like, ‘let's sing this one as opera, this one as country',
just taking a song and changing the style. And everyone went crazy for it."
After little more than a year on the London cabaret circuit
they stormed Edinburgh, winning rave reviews in all the major papers. Having
played Berlin, New York and the West End, they're on the way to Sydney for an
Opera House season timed for Mardi Gras. School of Pop is a lesson in musical genre-bending: an ingenious essay on how all of pop's finest and foulest moments were born
from the same 13 notes.
"It's a simple joke, so we try to make it as varied as
possible," promises Jones. "There are many different ways to mess up a song,
and we try to hit them all." Nick Dent