Fascinating Aida

Birmingham Town Hall


One of the joys of this theatre critic lark is to welcome back old friends. I know they will cheer up the gloomiest day, make me smile, laugh out loud, and chuckle with schoolboy delight at all those naughty words we are not supposed to say. If you had to define entertainment – then this is as good a place as any to start.

Their songs are witty, tuneful, clever, telling and have created a new, sophisticated genre of song that one might describe as the thinking man’s filth – I say man as women would never even think of such a things . . . would they?

Dillie Keane started what was then a cabaret act 40 years ago with a revolving door of sopranos until Adèle Anderson, a contralto, joined nine months in and 20 years later, stunning soprano Liza Pulman, an actual trained opera singer, arrived, the baby of the group, relatively speaking. With a combined age of . . . let’s just say she is the one keeping them below the double century mark . . . just. All of which means they are younger than the Rolling Stones, and a whole lot funnier.

It meant the opening number was an appropriate one for both them and certain members of the audience. Certain members such as those with knees that need to be cajoled into action after ten minutes sitting down, or those with far more years gone than they have yet to come who wisely never pass a toilet without a precautionary visit.

So, cards on the table to start with, We’re Next, about  life’s (more pressing for some than for others) final certainty, laughs a plenty, with home truths for some who can be seen carrying out a quick a pulse check and pacemaker tap to see them though the show.

It was a theme returned to later, in spades, with Mother, Dear Mother and without giving too much away, older readers, especially those with even modest assets, should always be wary of their children offering them dignified holidays in Switzerland.

There are songs that are useful indictors of voting in the next general election, such as the making of A Tory MP, which was less than complementary, less being an understatement regarding the current crop of the ruling party – it would be a brave man to place a bet on FA being booked for the next, or indeed any Tory party conference.

As for a rough guide to an election? Amid the riotous applause were a few scattered souls whose hands studiously ignored each other as they looked on, unblinking, with sort of blue tinged stern faces untouched by any hint of mirth.

We also had culture with Blugarian folk songs That’s what is said in the script – this predictive text can be a right Bulgar. Anyhow who knew the Buggers (check spelling please) knew so much about Britain. We had songs about HS2 – if you don’t know what it is, neither does anyone else these days, there was Thérèse Coffey and the splendid job she is doing on our waterways, Laurence Fox and his chat down rather then up lines, and even steady Eddie Starmer got a look in along with Gilliam Keegan and crumbling schools and Gwyneth Paltrow and her Goop products for the nether regions which even Ann Summers might baulk at  - coffee anyone?

There were old favourites, such as Cheap Flights, Bored and Lieder, an explanation that if you sing off key, with a tone not unlike that of a mating water buffalo with gout, pretend you are German and you get away with it, just like Marlene Dietrich

Then there was Dillie Keane’s love song, well sort of, Dogging. If you are not sure what that is . . . perhaps this is not the show for you.

It is the asides that are as much part of the show as the songs, and then there is the educational aspect, such as an audience test using examples from the Government’s citizenship test for immigrants wishing to join the blue passport club, We failed pretty miserably, so before we packed our bags for Rwanda, we had Citizenship Test with more relevant questions to ask of Brit wannabes.

But it’s not all laughs and naughty songs, there are some more, serious numbers in there, showing another side of the trio’s song writing skills. Some 23 years ago Dillie started working on a song as she was moving house from a home she had loved. It was  finished later with Adèle, and 23 years later she is moving again. So, time to dust off the song, but his time with a poignancy that belies the devil may effing care songs we have come to expect from FA.

Dillie’s husband of nigh on 23 years died recently and although not mentioned directly, many of the audience knew why the song now meant so much, they are loyal fans after all, so the heartfelt and prolonged applause that greeted the end meant far more than a mere standard audience reaction.

There was another serious song with the slow, jazzy The Blues Got a Skeleton Key, an acceptance that whatever happens in life, good or bad, the blues are always there ready to step in.

The thing about Fascinating Aida is they have no equal, they are a three woman genre on their own, with excellent pianist and musical director Michael Roulston now roped in to allow Dillie the freedom to roam the stage.

They are laugh out loud funny, hit nails on the head with the skill of a master carpenter, imcludes oodles of filth and epithets without causing offence, manage refined ladylike lewdness and explore areas that, from the women laughing uncontrollably around me, was a secret world that had passed us men by. And we thought all they talked about was Victoria sponges, Strictly and hair care when they got together . . .

So, if you want guaranteed laughs, don’t get an attack of the vapours at any delving into our rich Anglo-Saxon lexicon, and love songs that make you think amid the guffaws – then this is for you. An effing delight of a night. To 28-20-23.

Roger Clarke



Fascinating Aida are at Coventry Belgrade 23-24 February, 2024 and Lichfield Garrick 28 Feb and have a gig at The London Palladium 4-6 Feb next year – starting appropriately on Sunday Night (a bit of nostalgia there for the oldies).

The world’s filthiest Christmas song didn’t make it into the show, too early perhaps but it has been given its place in history – or at least on tea towels on the Fascinating Aida site. Perhaps not a gift for elderly relatives - although much cheaper than Switzerland. 

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