More panto than Piaf

COMEDY Fascinating Aida Vaudeville Theatre, London
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The Independent Culture
Music and comedy have not always been the happiest of bedfellows; there may well be a surge on the national grid as people get up to make tea every time Victoria Wood sits down at the piano. Perhaps Fascinating Aida, though, will give musical comedy a good name again.

The immaculately turned-out trio - pianist Dillie Keane and vocalists Issy van Randwyck and Adele Anderson - have mastered the art of comic incongruity. They play cleverly on the tension of cut-glass accents, enunciating perfect close-harmony songs about golden showers and Richard Gere's connection with gerbils. They subvert traditional forms to make comic points, singing a tango about herpes simplex, a Piaf-esque ballad dedicated to the homeless, and a blues song about being unable to join the Swiss navy.

Any echo of a twee, suburban golf-club supper evening - the sound hovers somewhere between Cole Porter and Hinge and Brackett - is offset by a surprisingly crass title, It, Wit, Don't Give a Shit, Girls, and a relish of innuendo Julian Clary might envy. "Horlicks - such a racy name for such a bland drink," Anderson muses. "Sounds like the kind of drink Hugh Grant might enjoy."

Many of the songs Fascinating Aida perform at the Vaudeville theatre are edged with pathos. Moaning that in the two years since they were last in the West End they have all remained unattached, Keane croons an anthem of singleton sadness: "Saturday night was made for couples/ Saturday night was made for fun/ Saturday night is a bloody disaster when you're just one." (They are mounting two Singles' Night shows on Valentine's Day.) In the second half she sings with bittersweet humour a song about a lover who is "a bloody sight more married than he said".

But they are perhaps at their strongest in knockabout mode - more pantomime than Piaf. Nobody in this country ever failed to get laughs by having a go at the Germans - Stan Boardman made virtually an entire career out of it - and "Lieder" is a gloriously un-PC Dietrich pastiche. Dragging a chair around for added Teutonic effect, Anderson wails: "Doesn't matter if you sing out of tune/ So long as you're German/ So if you haven't got a note in your head/ Don a silly accent instead."

Later, all three get on the frocks and shades for a splendidly savage attack on the "IT" girls: "Share each joy, share each pain/ We take it in turns to borrow the brain/ Side by side through thick and thin/ Thank the Lord we're thick and thin."

On a comedy circuit dominated by trendy surrealists, Fascinating Aida are a refreshingly down-to-earth throwback. I mean, how many other comedy acts would you hear using the phrase "plangent threnody" without batting an eyelid? Sweet FA.

To 15 Feb. Booking: 0171-836 9987

James Rampton