Kit and McConnel

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Kit and McConnel

The Crazy Coqs, London, U.K., June 30, 2015

Reviewed by Fiona Coffey for Cabaret Scenes

Kit-and-McConnel-Cabaret-Scenes-Magazine_212The cool, shady ambience of London’s Crazy Coqs offered its audience a welcome respite from the searing summer heat that rendered so many London theaters unpalatable last night. And Kit and McConnel’s classy, cerebral and highly entertaining brand of musical comedy cabaret was perfectly suited to this prestigious venue, and to an audience that would find its natural home here. To enter Kit and McConnel’s world is to appreciate a particular strand of British culture and humor that is deeply rooted in tradition, yet is realized in fresh and inventive ways by their diverse and evolving repertoire.

Delivered mainly by Kit Hesketh-Harvey, the songs feature picnics at Glyndebourne, the Royal Family, the military, holidays in Florence, gardening; the patter references houses in Norfolk, 16th century polyphony, Country Life magazine, Chopin and Mendelssohn. The lyrical humor reflects a BBC Radio 4 Just a Minute-style of wordplay and innuendo and is delivered with impeccable comic timing. Inevitably, there is humor about bodily functions—we hear how Pilates turns “fatties into farties” (complete with sound effects); we explore the incidence of sexually transmitted disease in old age, the troubling prospect of a wife inspired by Fifty Shades of Grey—all this is perfectly judged to titillate but not to offend, to push the boundary in a way that reflects a shared understanding between Kit and McConnel and their audience about what this brand of gleeful humor is all about. A sense of the community they reflect is further reinforced by songs about people who appear to be on the outside of this world: the Norwegians in the London Underground, the immigrants who flock to TK Maxx, the people who eat at Nando’s.

The elements of surprise then, arise from an extraordinary display of musical virtuosity by James McConnel at the end of the first set, based on a Liszt party trick, and the welcome insertion of a small number of serious songs that allowed some vulnerability into Kit’s otherwise exuberant and utterly commanding performance. “Afghanistan” was delivered with heartfelt anguish. “All the Things We Never Said” provided a deeply touching moment.

Kit and McConnel are constantly updating their repertoire, recognizing with topical comedy the shadow of a sell-by date that renders the previously hilarious now regrettably unfunny. For the most part, this trap was avoided, although brief references to horse meat at Tesco’s and “Jordan” (Katie Price’s long-since-abandoned pseudonym) suggested the need for further minor pruning or substitution. The value of a backing musical track in addition to piano for the first and last numbers was unclear, and could also be dropped without any cost to the show. Nevertheless, these are very minor niggles in what was a deeply enjoyable and engaging evening of entertainment. Kit and McConnel’s craft does not represent the whole of London cabaret (as might be mistakenly inferred from the closing number, “I Am Cabaret”).

However, this show is a fine exemplar of a form of musical comedy cabaret delivered by deeply skilled and experienced performers at the top of their game. Those who can appreciate Kit and McConnel’s take on a particular segment of British cultural life, either from the inside or outside, will be delighted both by The Crazy Coqs venue and by this show.

Fiona Coffey

Fiona Coffey joins our review team as a cabaret enthusiast and jazz singer, just as she makes her sell-out debut on the London cabaret scene with a self-devised tribute to her alter-ego Mrs. Robinson. She has hosted jazz evenings and performed at a number of venues including The Crazy Coqs, The Pheasantry, and 606 Club. In her day job she is a leadership development coach, travelling around the globe, working with a hugely diverse population of executives, as they grapple with the challenges of leadership and organizational change. Having recently expended most of her writing energies on her doctoral thesis, she welcomes the opportunity to entertain and inform a different audience through Cabaret Scenes.