Two's company

COMEDY Girls with Big Jests; Two Giddy Kippers King's Head Theatre, London
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The Independent Culture
Television schedulers love comedy double acts almost as much as National Lottery draws. Constantly trawling the circuit in search of the new Morecombe and Wise, they could do a lot worse than check out the two up-and-coming pairings currently at the King's Head Theatre in London.

Don't be put off by the fnar-fnar overtones of Girls with Big Jests; Henri Garden and Phil Fordham are a lot sharper than that Carry On-style title would suggest. It covers everything from randy, superannuated explorers and a punk band singing along to the theme tune from Casualty to American ladies who lunch comparing cosmetic surgery ("Gucci have brought out a fabulous new colostomy bag") and a wicked send-up of the open-mouthed posing of the Spice Girls in which the other parts are played with great conviction by three blow-up dollies.

The show has an overarching theme - that the pair struggle through the skits barely able to tolerate each other's company. From the moment Garden misses the big opening number because she's in the shower, they spend much of their time on stage arguing. From Laurel and Hardy onwards, all the best double acts have been fuelled by fully leaded acrimony.

Girls with Big Jests closes with a song in which Fordham complains about Garden's flatulence. As any fan of the campfire scene in Blazing Saddles will tell you, you can't go wrong with a good, old-fashioned fart gag.

In Two Giddy Kippers, Andy Parsons and Henry Naylor could also bitch for Britain. They have their moments of pure silliness - they perform a winning, "Stars on 45"-type hits compilation on Fisher Price toys in which Naylor plays "Purple Haze" on a baby guitar with his teeth. But they are at their best at each other's throats.

The tension begins as the squat Parsons reads out his rude best-man's speech for the unfeasibly tall Naylor's forthcoming wedding. It then rapidly degenerates. When Parsons shouts that everyone in Supermarket Sweep is from Naylor's native Yorkshire because "it's their best hope of a bloody meal", Naylor retorts, "at least in Yorkshire we don't look like the love child of Mel Smith and Keith Chegwin."

It segues into an artfully constructed slanging match in which they use quotations from pop songs and films to insult each other. The row climaxes with Naylor smashing the plate Parsons has given him as a wedding present with a hammer. "What's this?" Naylor asks. "The man at the start of the Rank films." It is edgy stuff, treading a fine line between humiliation and humour.

They exit to the sound of the "That's All, Folks" tune - an appropriate choice for a pair whose bravura bickering is worthy of Tom and Jerry.

'Girls with Big Jests' and 'Two Giddy Kippers' continue at the King's Head Theatre, London N1 (0171-226 1916) to 16 February

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