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Thursday, January 17, 2013


(Adele Anderson Liza Pulman and Dillie Keane)

Stylishly dressed extraordinary trio present brilliant material that is full of fun and extremely clever lyrics. (Review by Caroline Smart)

Returning to South Africa after a sold-out season at Pieter Toerien’s Montecasino Theatre in 2011, Fascinating Aïda is back at the same venue and looks set to repeat its previous success.

The intriguing title has absolutely nothing to do with Giuseppe Verdi’s opera or his hapless heroine other than that both productions contain original music splendidly sung, albeit in different genres ... but it certainly is fascinating. Although, “fascinating” is a bland description of Dillie Keane (blonde), Adele Anderson (redhead) and Liza Pulman (brunette), a stylishly dressed extraordinary trio of talent, who take audiences through a full two-act programme of brilliant material that is full of fun and extremely clever lyrics.

Considered Britain’s best comedy cabaret trio, Fascinating Aïda are now justifiably described as a global internet sensation. No point in looking for an erudite reason for the name of their group – apparently “a friend chose the name and they were in a hurry”! Their number Cheap Flights, which lampoons budget travel, has attracted over nine million YouTube hits.

Think a female version of Noel Coward mixed with Peter Maxwell and you have Dillie Keane, who founded Fascinating Aïda in 1983 when the group started performing in a West End wine bar. With the other long-lasting member Adele Anderson, they went on to gain enormous popularity and accolades, earning no less than three Laurence Olivier Awards nominations for Best Entertainment.

Dillie Keane is an enigma – the musical leader of the group she is mainly seated at the piano and leads the introduction to most pieces with a style that varies from the laconic and lugubrious to a sense of energised wickedness or a dazzling disarming smile! Just when you wonder if her movements are slow and deliberate for a health reason, she proves her agility by joining the others in an Irish jig and later plays the piano with her feet while bashing a cymbal at the same time!

Tall and imposing, Adele Anderson has a deep and attractive voice and was delightful in a number which sent up contemporary art and the strange creations that are often produced under this genre.

The diminutive Liza Pullman is simply adorable, her soaring soprano voice allowed to fly free of the fun and nonsense in a new number along the lines of “A Brand New Me” which is an anthem to self-survival.

Fascinating Aïda premiered this show on the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2011 and hasn’t looked back since. They travel the world to great acclaim and if last night's production was anything to go by, make a strong point of including local relevant humour into the show. The trio write their own material with numbers such as “It isn’t too Late to be Famous, The One True Religion is Me, and An Orang-utan’s Having my Baby. However, there are some exquisitely beautiful moments with Look, Mummy, No Hands and Old Home.

This is not a show for sitting back and letting the music waft over you. Fascinating Aïda requires concentration from the audience as well as an appreciation of brilliant sizzling lyrics. Approach the show in this interactive fashion and you’ll be blown away by the performers. Only a group supremely sure of themselves could get away with opening the second half of a show with a number titled I’m Bored!

The material is brilliant – think the satire of Tom Lehrer and two Stephens, Sondheim and Fry. The content is often outrageously sexual but presented in such a way that it is hilarious sophisticated comment rather than playing for crude cheap laughs.

Fascinating Aïda runs at Pieter Toerien’s Montecasino Theatre until January 27. Booking is at Computicket. – Caroline Smart