Theatre

Frisky and Mannish: The College Years @ Underbelly, Edinburgh



Sequels are tricky things. Stick too faithfully to the original formula and risk accusations of a lack of originality, veer too wildly away from what made you popular in the first place and risk alienating your fan base.

Its not the easiest line to walk as Frisky and Mannish prove with their follow up to last years fringe hit, School of Pop. Named in true Saved by the Bell style, The College Years sees them revisit the format and material that garnered them such acclaim.
F&M do pop parody mash-ups, exercises in collision theory; they mesh songs from opposite ends of the musical spectrum, usually with deeply amusing results. Retaining her school mistress persona, Frisky doles out second helpings to her assembled students, correcting grammatical errors in RnB songs and demonstrating, via Whigfields Saturday Night, that any song can have emotionally heft when slowed down to the right tempo. Mannish, as ever, provides adept and mildly combative keyboard and vocal accompaniment.

Some of the new material is inspired, particularly their version of Come on Eileen sang in the style of a number from Blood Brothers, and several favourite routines are revisited: unlikely duettists Lily Allen and Noel Coward make a welcome return for an apt version of Paula Abduls Opposites Attract, which, as they rightly, point out could well be the theme of the show.

More than most fringe offerings this is a show where you could accurately gauge the age range of the audience from the movement of laughter around the room (late 1990s references going down well where I was sitting, less so their lengthy dissection of the oeuvre of Florence and the Machine). Eileen aside they dont travel too far outside their comfort zone and instead spend a fair amount of time on slightly tongue-in-cheek revelling in last years successes, but while its fair to say there are probably a good few acts on the Fringe who wouldnt mind making a dig at Guardian comedy critic Brian Logan, building a routine around your less favourable reviews feels a bit indulgent.

Perhaps because they are so very good at what they do (the show simply wouldnt work if they didnt have the musical talent to pull it off), they have acquired a sizeable and loyal following in a short space of time. This feels very much like a show designed to feed their fans. Already reference-heavy, their show now includes an added layer of self reference, as well as callbacks to School of Pop, revisiting both Thats Not My Name and Fugue for Guilty Feet. This second coming may be a case of more of the same, but if youre a fan of theirs than thats by no means a bad thing.



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