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Topping and Butch
in - Take It Up The Octave!
Verdict: Glorious songs of satire and filth
Edingburgh 03 - The Pleasance
They stole the show from a cast of top acts at The Pleasance Press Launch with their sharp witty political songs. Now it's the full performance.
Topping's a handsome and charming gentleman of mature years, arched eyebrows rising to points, stylishly bald, comfortably portly, and dressed in a leather skirt. Butch is slim, a younger lad, muscular and balletic, with a relaxed and easy-going style, fetish gauntlets, tight leather shorts, and a whip.
Apart from that, they're both more or less naked, except for matching Doc Marten boots.
The style of Topping and Butch is an easy-going rapport with the audience. There's not an iota of cruelty in either of them - the barbs are all in their songs. Whereas many shows, however good, go stale, their act is continually rewritten.
Their speciality is accurate political satire - stunningly written and performed. The lyrical quality of their writing is astounding - pure, apt, accurate poetry that's bang up to date and hits every nail hard on the head. It's also breathtakingly funny.
And beautifully sung - they have fine, gifted voices, both together and individually. There's well-arranged, full and subtle accompaniment from Michael Topping's accomplished on-stage piano, and his pre-recorded orchestrated and synthesised backing tracks.
A delight of the act is the integration of astonishingly well-written lyrics, excellence in musical scoring, and stunning vocal delivery.
Tonight, the lads come on to Thus Spake Zarathustra (The 2001 Theme), and launch into Masters of The Night (West End parody) - on the subject of domination.
Never Mind is the highlight of the night. It's a vehicle for extremely pungent and tautly-written political barbs, right up-to-date. Their fine reputation could rest on this song alone. Tonight's version includes Claire Short's denunciation of PM Blair, Bin Laden, Aaron Barschak (in the news today), US gay bishops, Jeffrey Archer, Princess Diana Fund sued, Tony Martin sells story, A Level standards (news today), Hutton Inquiry (today), Pauline Prescott's son, train rails buckle in heat, John Leslie on Ulrika, Britney Spears has sex ('I thought my prince had come / so did my fanny, tits and bum')
'How close to the wind can we sail?'. They're gents, and ask approval as they go along. Extremely, is the consensus, and it's straight into How Much Is That Missile In The Window (destruction of the World Trade Centre), The John Leslie Side Story, a West Side Story parody including I've Just Mashed A Swede Called Ulrika (Maria).
Dr Kelly's suicide draws sharp intakes of breath in the glorious (They Laid The Blame) On Doctor Kelly's Doorstep. The Hutton Inquiry spoof includes Only 45 Minutes From Countdown (24 Hours From Tulsa), and Spin Doctors In Trouble (Goodness Gracious Me).
Their Bombing 9 to 5 (Dolly Parton parody) indicts America for its illegal invasion of Iraq far more effectively than the most lucid Guardian leader. The history of the assault from America's viewpoint ('Shout to the folks - in English - "Boy, you're free"'), it cuts open the jugular using the most subtly-crafted ridicule of America, and its view of the world.
Michael Topping solos in a caustic look at the 4x4 school run, When You're Blocking Half Of The Street (Sunny Side Of The Street). Steve Butch solos with a profoundly filthy version of I Dreamed A Dream. The lads duet a delightful Petula Clark parody, dedicated to straight women in the audience, the sensitive Fag Hag (Downtown). The show, well, climaxes, with the perils of 'finding a shag on the internet' - Gaydar - The Musical.
Credits (alpha order): Written, performed and directed by - Andrew Simmons (Butch), Michael Topping (Topping). Technical manager - Pleasance staff.
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