Flanders and Swann

When Tim FitzHigham and Duncan Walsh Atkins took to the stage as Flanders and Swann in their dashing tuxedos, I mentally groaned and waited for the crooning to start. As possibly the only audience member below the age of 50, I wondered whether I wasn’t going to be in for something I wouldn’t like. I was mistaken.Previously described as ‘the bastions of the spiffing song’, that's exactly what they presented: a series of pretty little ditties reminiscent of R. L. Stevenson's style. Through song, the two bemoan such issues as insufferable household repairmen, the weather, politics and the current fiscal climate; it's no wonder why they've managed to attract so many fans of a certain age. It's all tongue-in-cheek, however, and everything is carried out with aplomb.There is a strong sense of circularity in the setlist; besides the opening number, there are two further ouroborous pieces. These are obviously old, recurrent favourites, with audience members encouraged to ‘sing along in the chorus’, which they invariably do. All this sits beside more experimental numbers played on the music stand with rubber tubing.FitzHigham's connection with the audience is established early on and utilised well. His narrative is highly personalised and thus all the more genuine for it. He is charm personified, his delicious voice swooping from a gloriously high falsetto down to a deep, shuddering bass. Atkins, as the long-suffering keyboardist, plays his part with great temerity and chips in with his soaring tenor harmonies.The fifth star is awarded for the sheer grace and showmanship with which the pair conduct themselves. When a woman's mobile phone goes off - Nokia original tone on what looks like a 3310 - FitzHigham is quick to capitalise on the humour of the situation and wrests the phone from her grasp, taking the call on stage and having the audience pretend to be pirates. Priceless. Although it was an interruption to the show, I continued to be filled with a great respect for these two industry professionals.Flanders and Swann's predominantly older fanbase perhaps reflects their performing methods as everything is traditional, old-fashioned even. Yet this is still a rollicking good hour spent in the company of two wholly charming men. It is great to see a show in which no modern media feature and which doesn't always try to keep ahead of the game. Ironically, that in itself is refreshingly cutting edge - although I doubt that's what they're going for. I was rapt with attention for the full hour, enchanted by the lyrical spell that Flanders and Swann cast: the perfect escape from our time.

Reviews by Fen Greatley

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The Blurb

Multi-award winning comedian Tim FitzHigham and BBC Radio 4 ‘Showstopper!’ star Duncan Walsh Atkins are back with a brand new fresh selection of the songs and silliness of legends Flanders and Swann. ‘Genius!’ (Guardian), ‘Marvellous’ (Evening Standard).

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