Frisky and Mannish: Popcentre Plus at New Greenham Arts, on Thursday, October 6
I HAVE a confession about Frisky and Mannish: after seeing them perform on BBC Three’s Edinburgh Fringe showcase, I dismissed them as “a bit pants” and knowing that their Newbury date was one of several I was reviewing that week, I was ready to jack in my ticket. But then, friends and family started raving about having heard them on the radio, so I thought I might as well tag along and see who was right - me, or four of my nearest and dearest.
Reader, I loved them so much, I bought the T-shirt. Literally. Got it signed on the back as well. Having spoken to the mum of another participant in the BBC Three showcase (I am now of an age where I don’t know the bright young things, but I do know their parents), it appears that Frisky and Mannish weren’t the only act who struggled to wow as they should without the bangs and whizzes of their own production arena.
That’s not to say that this comedic musical duo are nothing without their effects buttons, as Frisky & Mannish - aka Oxford University graduates Laura Corcoran and Matthew Floyd Jones - are seriously talented singers and performers. It is surprising to learn after the show that neither have much formal training in the performing arts arena. Corcoran in particular is a virtuoso vocalist who can switch her powerful voice between pastiches of Madonna (in her many incarnations), Adele and Ellie Golding among others, with graceful ease.
The Popcentre Plus concept of the Frisky and Mannish show was a workshop for would-be popstars, with education - the “revelations” that Rhianna’s Rude Boy was written by the Bee Gees and that Florence & the Machine’s songs are recycled late 90s pop; enlightenment - that any song can fit the grime genre (think N-Dubz), even The Carpenters’ On Top Of The World; and dire warnings of “Good Girl[s] Gone Bad”, those teeny boppers who grow up to find their sexy side.
There was great fun to be had in the audience participation as we were divided into the Elvis Presleys (singers), Britneys (dancers), Razorlights (great hair), Biebers (no discernible talent) and Greg (so fabulous, only one name needed). This culminated in the formation of a new boyband on stage, given the moniker The Other Direction, and obliged to perform a Take That standard to the best of their abilities.
Even the song that had been my BBC Three bugbear - a version of Girls Aloud’s Sound of the Underground, with lyrics changed to the words of nursery rhymes (“the wheels on the bus go round and round”) worked fabulously in the context of the show. With their performance of their Kate Bush/ Kate Nash mash-up during the Fringe coverage leading me to comment “that would have been so funny five years ago”, I was concerned that with the fast pace of pop music, some of their act would have already dated. As it turns out, it was me who couldn’t always keep up with them; having to check with my younger sister who a certain song belonged to (it was Jessie J) proved that.
With their fingers on the musical pulse of the moment, Frisky and Mannish turn the glitzy world of throwaway pop into something to be cherished through pastiche, satire, and lots of laughs. They have already sold out their two dates at Reading’s South Street later this month, but there are still a very few tickets left for Swindon Arts Centre on December 20. And remember - if you have great hair, you too can be a chart topper. Just ask the boys from Razorlight.
- First published in Newbury Weekly News on Thursday, October 13, 2011