Arts: Charm will get them everywhere

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THE LATE critic Jack Tinker once wrote that he always liked to find a word to sum up whatever he was reviewing. The word for the cabaret act, sorry, Irish international super-group, The Nualas, has to be "daffy".

Identically dressed in Day-Glo pink suede minidresses and (so we're told) life-saving girdles, the three songstresses are like a collision between the Late Lunch high priestesses of post-modernism Mel and Sue, and the Nolans - The Eamonn Andrews Sisters, if you will.

Bouncing on stage from behind a silver curtain, they introduce themselves for easy identification: "I'm Nuala, she's Nuala and she's Nuala." In fact, although all three are pitch-perfect and preternaturally happy, it's easy to tell them apart. One wears early-Edna Everage pointy Fifties glasses; another seems to have borrowed a pair from Su Pollard while the other must have stolen hers from Michael Nyman. That gives no clue to their ludicrously varied musical style but it does clue you in to their barking sensibility which creates bizarre songs which redefine the art of the non-sequiteur.

Their success stems from a cunning mix of sternness with information about their "self-penned musical numbers" and rampant silliness. This allows them to rhyme "the Abbey" with "Punjabi" or "General Franco" and "Cinzano Bianco" while kicking up their heels - neatly shod in wet-look white platform shoes, since you ask - and doing the kind of interpretive hand movements beloved of bad TV specials.

It's fair to say that the likes of Barbra Streisand will not be rushing to record their songs. Can you see her covering "Curly Kay", a wickedly mourn ful ditty about a girl with a cabbage for a head who donates herself to starving school chums and becomes a saint? Or "Tragic Circumstances", about a worker in a fast-food joint who is yearning for a hip replacement? If their three-part harmonies weren't so secure they would never get away with it, but once you succumb to their charms, you're lost. As a result, the in-between chat - often rather loosely handled - becomes fatally endearing.

They tell of their glamorous life in the fast lane, but are not too humble to sing (hilariously) of their infatuation with a Hollywood legend. And they brim with writing tips: "when there's a tragedy, you can always make a song out of it." The first half builds to a frenzied musical climax, with their friendly priest going awol on the piano, one Nuala giving great air guitar and another blowing the hell out of a recorder. It leads to the inescapable conclusion: The Nualas are the new rock'n'roll. You read it here first.

David Benedict

A version of this review appeared in later editions of Saturday's paper