The show explores a selection of songs by Noël Coward and Ivor Novello through humour, glamour and elegance, as the Flamin' Dames Helen Whittington and Hilary Fisher combine music with pieces of storytelling and theatre. They unpick Coward and Novello's professional rivalry, collaboration and personal friendship while illuminating the background of the songs and and the social setting the two shared.
What comes across is their passion for the material, while never forgetting that their priority is entertainment.
Dressed in sparkling evening gowns and jewels, the Flamin' Dames reflect on the grand and outrageous parties attended by Coward and Novello, filled with alcohol, drugs and outrageous costumes. This comes through most clearly in Fisher's terrifically comic performance of I Went To A Marvellous Party, which sizzles with Coward's wit in its sense of hedonism and flamboyance. Coward apparently developed his unique slow staccato tone in order to better communicate with his deaf mother, and Fisher provides an excellent impersonator of Coward's stilted and deadpan voice, frequently punctuating the show with his witticisms.
There is an interesting blend of the retro and the modern, encapsulated by the gender-reversal of two women taking centre stage and perform the songs of Coward and Novello. The perspective is effective and refreshing, and they bring an air of vitality to the performance. The modern gloss extends to an updated version of There Are Bad Times Just Around The Corner adding contemporary relevance to an old tale of austerity gloom.
The pair’s precision and confident comic timing allow them to deliver the playful First Up and drunken and carefree Has Anybody Seen Our Ship? with well-crafted panache. Rough Stuff sees Whittington bring surprising sauciness to the performance to match the lyric's naughtiness and is a delight.
Novello composed the music to the patriotic wartime anthem Keep The Home Fires Burning in 1914, and the Dames return to its original more up-tempo origins that still allows for a beautifully rousing chorus. Love Made The Song with its glorious rich harmonies allows Novello's romanticism to take full stage and is a very moving finale.
The Flamin' Dames' performance shows versatility as they allow for a balanced variety of Coward and Novello, performance and anecdote, playfulness and the odd serious touch. What comes across is their passion for the material, while never forgetting that their priority is entertainment.