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Frisky and Mannish's School of Pop
Published on Wednesday, 19 May 2010

If you've seen Frisky and Mannish before, you won't be surprised to hear that they left the Komedia audience breathless on Sunday. A cabaret phenomenon with a growing reputation, to see them is to adore them. They are an act that you introduce friends to and those friends are always delighted. They are a joy.

But to the uninitiated it can be hard to convey exactly what makes Frisky and Mannish such a source of pure pleasure. They are so much more than the sum of their parts. A double act who perform pop parodies? Yes, but it's more than that. The performances and musicality are so very good. The impressions are skilful. But, to leave it at that is still to undersell what makes them so special: Frisky and Mannish are fun, but it is very clever fun indeed.

The title School of Pop is not just a moniker that has been slapped on for the sake of it; it really does define this show. The real joy of Frisky and Mannish is that they engage with their material at an intellectual level. You don't have to go there with them; you can just enjoy the show for its silliness. But if you want to delve deeper you can find a mine of material about the history of pop and the self-reflexivity in popular culture.

Of course they’re joking when they say that Ovid is to Ted Hughes as end-of-the-pier Vaudeville is to The Pussycat Dolls – but not entirely. When they sing a Kate Bush number in the style of Kate Nash, they are saying something about both these female singer-songwriters and the types of preoccupations that inform them. When Lily Allen debates singing style with Noel Coward it's very funny; and the culmination, Lily's version of I've Been to a Marvellous Party sung in her trademark 'laconic' style, is perfectly rendered.  But it is also saying something about different kinds of artifice in singing styles.

Don't let all this make you think Frisky and Mannish are hard work. During the show I just laughed and laughed – the deeper ideas are there if your after-show pub debate requires them. Or you can just amuse yourself by singing Eternal Flame in the style of a stalker.

School of Pop is a hugely exciting and rewarding show. And watching Frisky and Mannish today, you get the distinct impression you are watching the early career of an act that is going to be very, very famous indeed. They really are that good.

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These are archived reviews of shows from Brighton 2010.  We keep our archives online as a courtesy to performers, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.