BWW Review: FASCINATING AÏDA, Southbank Centre

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BWW Review: FASCINATING AÏDA, Southbank Centre

BWW Review: FASCINATING AÏDA, Southbank CentreFascinating Aïda's new show offers irreverent looks to growing old, politics, the environment, dogging, and everything in between. Having gone "fungal" with "Dogging" and the infamously naughty "Try Not To Be a C**t, It's Christmas", the group are now playing a limited four-week season at the Queen Elizabeth Hall before a spring tour in 2020.

Directed by Paul Foster, Dillie Keane, Adèle Anderson and Liza Pulman are back for two hours of comedy and music with a range of songs from the 37 years the group has been working together.

These ladies know their audience. "We've heard there are people under the age of 30 in the audience" Keane warns. Songs about the menopause and having grown-up children returning to live at home early on set the tone for the evening. Keane especially hams the façade of tired older woman, but it is an enthused lethargy. Furtive looks and wry smiles all betray, however, the obvious passion these women share.

But don't be fooled, for though Fascinating Aïda are slightly older, there's plenty of profanity. In the Brexit lament that is "So Sorry Ireland", the neat rhyme of "with the choice of two boxes, we ticked self-destruct, thus Britain is now comprehensively f*cked" might give an idea of what you're in store for at this show.

Occasionally when the members sing together it can be difficult to understand the lyrics, though this was more an audio problem than one of diction. Mike Robertson's lighting is also an essential part of the evening, and the women are accompanied beautifully by Michael Roulston, who brings a suave charm to the proceedings.

Yet their individual turns are the best bits of the show. Dillie Keane's "This Ain't The Hokey Cokey Any More" is reminiscent of Victoria Woods, riotously explaining the physical energies needed in one's older years to engage in intimacy.

Anderson's "Prisoner of Gender", a song that has taken 10 years to write, emotionally tracks her story of transition and was probably (and rightly) the most warmly received song of the evening. Liza Pulman's voice is also just sublime.

At their best, the satire behind Fascinating Aïda's songs ranges from outlandish to immediately contemporary. "Bulgarian Song Cycle 2019" had lyrics referencing the result of the General Election, which was especially impressive given the event had happened the night before.

There is a reliance on repetition that can, as with "Health & Safety", make for almost-tedious viewing. But when it lands, as it does in "Instagram Hashtag", with lyrics such as "If you follow me, I'll... follow you" realising the mundanity of social media, or the stark environmental warning of "Lerwick Town", which ends "summer's come, and it'll never go away", it's really quite impressive.

"Those of a sensitive disposition, what the f*ck are you doing here?" Keane asks as she begins "Dogging". Really, I have to agree. The variety of Fascinating Aïda's songs ensures there's fun for all the family, though leave the children at home - this is a show for the big kids.

Fascinating Aïda are at the Southbank Centre until 5 January, 2020.

Photograph credit: Steve Ullathorne.

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From This Author Anthony Walker-Cook