Show review: Frisky & Mannish at The Wardrobe, Leeds

Frisky & Mannish at The Wardrobe. Picture: Gary Brightbart

Frisky & Mannish at The Wardrobe. Picture: Gary Brightbart

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Returning after a year’s hiatus, Frisky & Mannish’s new show moves away from the musical cabaret act’s self-described role as pop educators.

For Just Too Much the pair has instead swapped their serio-comic infotainment style to address pop excess. Wrapped in the concept of how to perform the ‘perfect meltdown’ in three stages, it sees vocalist Laura Corcoran (Frisky) and singing pianist Matthew Floyd Jones (Mannish) tackling issues around gender and celebrity.

Struggling with their own egos, extreme weight gain and violent mood swings the pair try to out-compete each other with waspish comments and increasingly silly stunts. This climaxes with Frisky singing Miley Cyrus’ ‘Wrecking Ball’ while Mannish, pulling Rik Mayall-eque grotesqueries, rides behind her on a globe as he cod-seductively licks a wire.

As the tension between them escalates they read advice letters from Sinead O’Connor to various pop stars (instructing Beyoncé to ‘go to Next and get a skirt’), try to find a feminist anthem (including a music hall version of The Pussycat Dolls’ ‘Beep’), play a quiz game of ‘Know Your Lord(e)s’, and stage a surreal dream ballet sequence.

Staying within character even when making off the cuff asides, there’s a musical prowess beneath the act’s gimmicks and the eyebrow it constantly arches at their own gaudy cabaret (“I’m not at my most stable right now,” announces Frisky mid-meltdown as she totters on a pair of roller-skates).

For all their sharp critiques on excess and pop culture, there’s nonetheless a sense that the show is a work in progress. The overall concept starts to run out of steam in the second half, with Mannish’s resignation letter and subsequent reunion not being fully realised and being little more than an excuse to riff through their greatest hits.

The problem here is that pop culture moves so fast that what was contemporary when the pair emerged on the cabaret comedy scene in 2008 risks being obscure for the largely student crowd. Their version of ‘Wuthering Heights’ may have resonance on the back of Kate Bush’s recent residency at the Hammersmith Apollo, for example, but its delivery by Kate Nash is a culturally dated curio.

The pair’s lightly observed satire has many gems but Just Too Much falls short on cementing their reputation for being one of the most sought-after acts on the circuit.

Show date: November 21

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