When three ex-Oxford Gargoyles return to the Fringe as part of a three-piece girl band, it’s expected of them to present a predominantly jazz-filled set and to be almost musically flawless. By the end of an hour-long set by these three beauties and the three men accompanying them, the audience came away feeling more than satisfied.
Despite a few opening nerves and a couple of unsure expressions during their harmonies, the girls went from strength to strength throughout their set, moving slickly from Kate Bush to the Jungle Book and finishing with a glorious Abba Medley, all the while lending a wonderful barbershop twang to all the pieces and jazzing up every rhythm, thanks to the skilled guitarist and arranger, Woody Lewenstein. While the girls were vocally strong as a group, the best moments occurred when they performed solo. Claire Harbourne showed off a fiercely compelling voice during ‘These Boots Are Made For Walkin’’, during which the three musicians swapped instruments after each verse. This was especially impressive since the sound barely changed as a result. Freya Ward-Smith showed off a silky, well-controlled voice in ‘You’ve Got a Friend’, although some of the top notes were a little unsure and her performance style needed more animation. Highest praise must go to Alice Gimblett, who bossed the soprano solos all night long and was the powerhouse behind the melodies.
There were many other highlights in the show. At one point the girls left the stage and the boys donned blonde wigs, playing and singing ‘All the Single Ladies’, much to the chagrin of mother-figure Alice, who hilariously told them off in true ‘I’m not angry, just disappointed’ style. At another, we were briefly transported to a Spanish tapas bar during the interlude of the faultless ‘Sway’. Later, the ever-quickening tempo during the splendid ‘Ain’t No Mountain High’, did not affect the girls’ perfect diction. However, the real heart-wrencher was their rendition of Joni Mitchell’s ‘Both Sides Now’, which was simply outstanding and clearly displayed their a cappella roots. Despite the imperfections of this show, these girls have marvellous stage presence, energy and some excellent arrangements. Catch them while you can.