Fascinating Aida: Cheap Flights
So. It’s happened. I’ve fallen in love with a woman.
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Well, three women, actually. Those grande dames at Fascinating Aida have done it again with their latest (though strictly non-Christmassy) offering, Cheap Flights.
The title comes from their ‘fungal’ hit, ‘Cheap Flights’ (currently in the many millions of views on YouTube), a Riverdance-inspired Irish folk song about the perils of budget flying. This tune, along with ‘Dogging’, in which the group’s founder member Dillie Keane bashes out a jaunty ditty of car park shagging, are perhaps the trio’s best known tunes, but their repertoire deserves our full attention.
This is classy, classic cabaret – a stage bare but for Keane’s piano (which she plays sat down, stood on the stool and lying prostrate) and a few chairs. Glamour is provided by the costumes (some very jazzy tailoring for Act 1 and sparkles for Act 2) and in their sheer presence. With a wink and a knowing smile the FA ladies belt, croon and insinuate their way through the state of the nation, TOWIE and one night stands. The satirical targets may be obvious (banking crisis/Tony Blair/Jordan) but their musical choices are not and remain a constant delight. A repeated song cycle inspired by Bulgarian folk music (and as someone who, for reasons not to be discussed here, has listened to a lot of that country’s output) is bang on the money; the jigging, bodhrán-inspired rhythm of Cheap Flights has the audience in uproar; and a Weimar cabaret song about an out of tune Teutonic proves the old adage that to play a bad singer you have to be a really good one.
As to the dear ladies themselves, Dillie Keane (too, too glorious) revels in the filth of the evening whether it be in the aforementioned hymn to English pastoral pashing or avoiding any cringe worthy moments in a genuinely up to the minute rap proving she’s ‘down with the kids’. The resplendent Adéle Anderson (a more acidic Mary Portas) oozes sarcasm and glamour whether it be crooning Lotte Lenya-style or discussing unusual domestic arrangements, while new girl Sarah-Louise Young, if lacking the spontaneity of the longer-serving members, brings a killer belt to stories of one night stands and Young British Artists.
If there’s a criticism, it’s that the structure is too rigid – the second half is much stronger in both material and themes, and it’s a shame that the title song is dealt with so early. It’d be nice to have more of a balance between the acts, but, when Dillie Keane stops the show with a haunting, plaintive song about passing years and lost friends, you can forgive almost anything.
Fascinating Aida have earned their place as the first ladies of British cabaret. Like the dirty mouthed aunts you wish you were spending Christmas with, you want to meet them after the show, ply them with Baileys and listen to stories of almost thirty years on the road.
Just don’t ask them how they got their name.
Words: Dan Usztan
Fascinating Aida: Cheap Flights are at the Charing Cross Theatre, London until 7 January 2012.