Monday, 19 January 2015

You too can write a great West End score

When we last saw Kit Hesketh-Harvey on stage way back in 2010 it was as part of the long-running (and infamous) Kit & the Widow. Richard Sissons (the Widow) has since moved on, back to his roots as a classical composer and arranger, and instead Mr Hesketh-Harvey has formed a new partnership with his (other) long-term song-writing collaborator James McConnel. Intrigued at how the new combo might work, Al, Mark and I were overjoyed last night to land tickets to see Kit & McConnel in their new regular residency at one of my favourite new London cabaret rooms, the "Crazy Coqs" at Brasserie Zedel.

As one reviewer put it: "[Mr] Hesketh-Harvey, all eloquent Noël Coward wordplay and satirical skewering, remains the focus." This indeed he does, and we, placed right at the front adjacent to the stage, were transfixed (not least by the revealing tightness of his trousers, but that's another matter entirely). He is a consummate camp cabaret artiste - summing up his passion for the art-form ("at one point it was just me and Dillie Keane manning the barricades; it's so pleasing to see venues like this popping up again", he said) neatly, we thought, with his anthem I am Cabaret.

However Mr McConnel - even if he was the butt of jokes about his resemblance to Hugh Grant - proved to be a more than worthy cabaret partner. As well as singing a number of songs in the evening's repertoire, his shining moment came when he composed (then and there) a wonderful improvised piano piece based merely on musical notes relating to the name of someone picked out of the audience (a "party trick" that apparently Franz Liszt was famous for performing).

Speaking of repertoires, theirs is certainly a wide-ranging one - veering in style from chanson to waltz to aria (Nessun Dorma in Punjabi, anyone? Fab!), from patter-songs to heart-rending ballads (such as Kit's very moving - and angrily anti-war - tribute to a surfing acquaintance who was killed in Afghanistan).

It is of course - in a similar vein to the aforementioned Miss Keane and Fascinating Aida - for their on-the-ball satirical numbers that we adore these boys. And with songs about the forthcoming election, Fifty Shades of Grey, closet racism, Pippa Middleton, and about fighting terrorism with toothpaste, tweezers, nail scissors and all the other things which irritatingly get seized at airports these days (in the name of "safety"), we were not disappointed.

There was even a song about the recent surprising statistics that sexually transmitted diseases are becoming an increasing problem amongst older people...

Some old faves were there, too. One of Mr Hesketh-Harvey's very best numbers [from his previous incarnation, when his pianist was "The Widow"] is the scarily accurate piss-take of Andrew Lloyd-Webber's penchant for nicking tunes from classical composers and passing them off as his own: You too can write a great West End score - steal it from somebody else!"

Inevitably, the show would not be complete without their ode to Nando’s chicken restaurants (with apologies to Abba’s Fernando):

"There was something in the food that night
That wasn’t right
At Nando’s."

Utterly wonderful, from beginning to end.

Kit & McConnel official website

Kit and McConnel "Over the Yardarm" Sundays at Crazy Coqs

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