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Frisky and Mannish: The College Years
Published on Monday, 23 August 2010

4.5 stars

Underbelly, Cowgate (venue website)
Until 29 Aug, 9:00pm (10:00pm)
Reviewed by Mathilda Gregory

In a homage to Saved by the Bell, this new show Frisky and Mannish: The College Years is really about What Frisky and Mannish Did Next.  It follows last year's smash hit, School of Pop, with its embarrassment of five-star reviews and a storming sell-out run.  So it's probably fair to say I was sitting in my wobbly chair in the packed Underbelly Belly Dancer wondering if it would be as mind-blowingly brilliant as their legendary breakthrough show.

The duo began with a few numbers and some banter about their 2009 experience - using their trademark uncanny impersonations and mash-up styles to thunder through Vogue, Paparazzi and a bit of Britney.  A second album which reacts to the shocking success of the first is a pop staple, but this show wasn't only about that (although they did return to this theme).  As with School of Pop, they moved on to a dissection of pop music, focussing mainly on incongruous duets - both real and wildly imagined.

The pure joy of Frisky and Mannish is their genuine and obvious love of pop.  "Affectionate tribute" doesn't even cover it: they love this stuff.  Their offbeat choices (they never go for the obvious) show their knowledge of the subject and also the richness of pop music itself.

It would be easy to see their insistence that we are studying pop music academically as part of the joke, but it isn't; pop music deserves this level of genuinely intelligent enquiry.  Indeed - like Giles in Buffy the Vampire Slayer - I have a theory that pop music contains more artistic cleverness than all other musical genres put together, and I think Frisky and Mannish would agree.

The show’s highlight, which particularly shows off the talents of Mr Hansel Mannish (who deserves credit that he can get noticed at all standing on stage next to charisma-bomb Frisky) takes Radiohead's Creep and speeds it up into a hi-energy dance number... then takes Whigfield's Saturday Night and slows it down to a maudlin angst-anthem.  The effect is astonishing.  Change the speeds of the song and the message of each is completely reversed.

The thing that lets this show down - ironically and frustratingly - is the strength of School of Pop.  This is a sequel.  It's basically School of Pop 2.  While that's great because the original show was great, it would be impossible for this show to have the same impact as the first.  And the worry is that Frisky and Mannish are themselves a one-hit wonder; I wanted more of a twist on the original premise, and after this show I felt the question “What do Frisky and Mannish do next” hadn't really been answered.

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These are archived reviews of shows from the Edinburgh Fringe 2010.  We keep our archives online as a courtesy to those we've featured, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.

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