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Flanders And Swann: A Brand Gnew Aftergnoon
Published on Monday, 10 August 2009

Flanders and Swann are arguably the best-known British comedy music duo. Even if you've never heard of them, you probably will recognise some of their songs. Going to this tribute act, I was fully aware of the biggest pitfall when performing their songs, or indeed any comedy music: although the words may be funny and witty, a dull execution will bring down the whole show. So I'm happy to report this was not so for Tim Fitzhigham (vocals) and Alex Silverman (piano), who ably step into the shoes of Flanders and Swann.

Tim's 'Flanders' had a definite stage presence and comedic delivery, single handedly carrying the spoken interludes between each song. Vocally, he was also equally strong from the deft enunciating of every word during quick fire pitter-patter passages in First and Second Law to a rich baritone chest voice during the more sombre lines of Slow Train. In fact, I may have enjoyed Tim's 'Flanders' more than the actual Flanders!

Similarly, Alex's 'Swann' was more than capable as an accompanist, and and also possessed a well-trained tenor voice. At times, though, Alex seemed unsure of his microphone, singing consecutive words with different levels of amplification. He wasn't helped by having to sit behind an upright piano for most of the show, leaving only his head visible to the entire audience.

Speaking of pianos, it was a shame the Pleasance could not have provided this show with a grand piano. That's not just for high-brow considerations of a grand piano's superior musicality the Pleasance's Cabaret Bar already put paid to those notions, with its dubious acoustic and lounge-bar-on-a-cruise-ship atmosphere. No, it was a shame because it relegated the status of the pianist. Flanders and Swann were a comedy double act, not a stand up comic singing along to someone on the piano. When Tim sarcastically referred to the "set", I sense he wasn't completely joking.

Nevertheless, after a routine containing around ten songs, all this didn't really matter. Wisely finishing with their most famous song, Mud, Mud, Glorious Mud - with optional audience participation (which I'm afraid to say I duly took up) - I had quite a glorious time. And, I suspect so will you - whether you are totally new to the music of Flanders and Swann, or in the words of the the performers, "you know the words slightly better than the two people on stage."

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