Reviews

Just in case you need to see what others think of the group before committing your hard-earned to a ticket, here are some reviews. Click on the reviews to expand them, and they will magically reveal themselves to you by the wonders of technology!


Gary Williams’ Cabaret Secrets


Written by Gary Williams
Published on Thursday, 21 August 2014
Performance reviewed: Charm Offensive, Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2014

It’s interesting what you can get away when you’ve got a smart accent and a posh frock. Whereas most pensioners would be sizzling with consternation if they heard Jonathan Ross use the the c word - Fascinating Aida had them shouting for more.

Singing to the everyday concerns of the middle classes, Dillie Keane, Adele Anderson and Liza Pulman wrap their beautiful voices about genetic mutation, dogging and famously - cheap flights.

After brief introductions the ladies let the songs speak for themselves. Time flies by with segues in all the right places, lots of movement and a few musical props. In their song cycles they lampoon Tony Blair, the Muslim veil, immigration, corporate greed. The comedy is suspended (and ultimately enhanced) with Old Home, a touching love letter to the houses we’ve loved and left.

But it’s the satirical lyrics that get us every time. Who else could rhyme puberty with Schuberty or cunnilingus with fingers? None of it is forced, the sentiments are spot on and the laughs come thick and fast. The delivery is very dry and very funny.

Behind the perfectly blended harmonies and gorgeous gowns Fascinating Aida are edgy, sharply satirical and wonderfully filthy. It’s easy to see why after thirty years they’re still the reigning queens of cabaret.

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British Theatre Guide


Written by David Chadderton
Published on Thursday, 14 August 2014
Performance reviewed: Charm Offensive, Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2014

This long-running trio - current line-up founder and pianist Dillie Keane, deep-voiced Adele Anderson and soprano Liza Pulman - can fill an auditorium the size of the big purple cow with ease, and even battle against the noise from the bar just a sheet of canvas away.

The audience is mostly, ahem, on the older side, but open-minded enough to laugh at perfectly-rhymed obscenities sung with cut glass accents in perfect harmony. And laugh they do, wholeheartedy - and in some cases they even sing along.

The subjects of the songs are issues that concern the performers at their current ages, and so they begin with something on getting older - or “next in line for the undertaker” - and examine the problems of grown-up kids who keep coming back home, even after they are married: “Boomerang Kids”.

Dillie Keane solos on a hilariously filthy classic that most fans know well, “Dogging”, and the encore (they didn’t have time to wait for us to shout for it) is the massive YouTube hit “Cheap Flights”, examining all of the extra charges that suddenly appear on the “flights for fifty pee” - sung for some reason in an Irish accent.

Not all of the songs are out-and-out comedies; there is a very touching song about the sadness of leaving an old house, and Anderson bravely confronts the subject of her sex change in an amusingly serious way.

I was wondering whether they would mention the big news story about their manager refusing complimentary tickets to ATG Theatres in protest about their charges - rather like cheap flights. Keane did say that one of the advantages of having online programmes is that ATG can’t take a cut. Perhaps a song may come of this one day.

This is a group that shows its class and experience with every song and spoken link and knows exactly how to handle its audience. It’s a great show with belly laughs from beginning to end.

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METRO


Written by Lucy Powell
Published on Friday, 3 January 2014
Performance reviewed: Charm Offensive, Southbank Centre, 23 December 2013

Rather like the festive season itself, the tired, the well-tested and the ineffably magical rub shoulders in Fascinating Aïda’s latest caustic cabaret show.
With deceptively peppy smiles and impeccable enunciation, the trio mercilessly dissect middle-class, middle-aged mores, stuffing Gilbert & Sullivan-style harmonies with expertly crafted, cunning witticisms.

Not all of it trills. At two hours, the show feels overextended, some numbers slump – an ill-judged rant about Facebook and the opener about sliding into old age – and far too much of the stage banter concerns the act’s (and actors’) longevity. Contralto Adèle Anderson’s eyebrow-raised asides feel overblown while silvery soprano Liza Pulman can belabour her delivery. But the brilliantly understated Dillie Keane is the unerring comic axis around which this show turns. Whether she’s gamely murdering hip hop, belting out solos on the appeal of dogging or delivering heart-wrenching laments about mothers and daughters, Keane’s impeccable grip on her material never falters.

It’s impossible to overstate the genius of the ‘Bulgarian song cycle’ – hysterical haikus on HS2, Victoria Beckham’s facial muscles and Nigella’s nose. Their collective, unfeigned chemistry is potent stuff indeed; don’t be surprised to find yourself humming their filthy Christmas ditty.

And when they launch into their YouTube smash, Cheap Flights, this warm-hearted trio transport their audience from the tawdrily familiar to the outlandishly unforgettable

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West End Wilma


Written by Jamie Chapman Dixon
Published on Tuesday, 24 December 2013
Performance reviewed: Charm Offensive, Southbank Centre, 23 December 2013

Fascinating Aida are back and more offensive then ever. The three musketeers of comedy cabaret present an all new show entitled ‘Charm Offensive’. This 2 hour show is an outrageously funny and severely addictive piece of theatre which really lives up to it’s title.

The trio which consists of Liza Pulman, Adele Anderson and Dillie Keane do a superb job at keeping the audience in stitches of laughter whilst maintaining a fluidity of the show which could only be described as perfection.

As an audience we were treated to many a song with my favorites being songs about Dogging, cheap flights and a very special Christmas song to close the show. Act 1 and Act 2 both open with a Monty Pyhton/Little Britain styled commentator through the speakers whilst we stared at a very minimalistic set. This set the perfect tone to the evening and put the house in good spirits and got them excited about what was going to come next.

The crowning glory of the show has to be the enthralling song ‘Down with the Kids/We are forever young’. I could happily and willingly sit and watch these three fabulous ladies perform this track over and over again untill the cows come home. Another stand out factor is the writing and dialogue between the songs. Somehow all three of them seem to take the mickey out of everyone and everything just enough that they end up offending nobody.

Fascinating Aida have recently celebrated their 30th anniversary and I speak for a lot of people when I say that I can’t wait for their 60th anniversary (where I will make sure I get a front row seat). If you want a fun night out with your friends then I can’t recommend this show enough. Just be careful not to spit all your red wine over the person’s head in front of you as you do so.

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Evening Standard


Written by Bruce Dessau
Published on Tuesday, 24 December 2013
Performance reviewed: Charm Offensive, Southbank Centre, 22 December 2013

After three decades Fascinating Aïda might not be the most cutting-edge comedy group but they are still pretty scathing. Their current set, Charm Offensive, has had a minor tinsel-tinged Yuletide makeover but it is essentially a rousing showcase for their enduring blend of satirical gags, inspired rhymes and impeccably enunciated wordplay.

Dillie Keane, Adele Anderson and relative newbie soprano Liza Pulman clearly have plenty to get off their chests. From boomerang kids flying back to the nest to dogging, “believe me, they were more than merely snogging”, the quips whipped up a storm almost as potent as the one outside. If occasionally the agenda felt plucked from a tick-list — Nigella gag? Check. HS2 gag? Check — laser-precise delivery added zest. More intriguing were the personal numbers. Most notably, Adele Anderson candidly recalling her feelings of being born a lad — “a carbon copy of my dad” — in Prisoner of Gender.

At well over two hours proceedings bordered on the indulgent but few complained. Particularly when the trio closed with their YouTube “greatest hit” Cheap Flights, in which a bargain 50p airline ticket turns out to have multiple strings attached. Do not bet against Aïda still flying high in another 30 years’ time.

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The Public Reviews


Written by Stephen Bates
Published on Tuesday, 24 December 2013
Performance reviewed: Charm Offensive, Southbank Centre, 23 December 2013

If anyone ever wondered what the St Trinians schoolgirls could have turned into in later life, Fascinating Aida may provide the answer. These three ladies are elegant, mischievous and, in the nicest possible way, extremely rude. Now into their 31st year, they have aged like the finest wine, honing their writing and performing skills to the point of near perfection.

Founder member Dillie Keane is still going strong, together with Adele Anderson, who joined a year later, and relative newcomer Liza Pulman, who has been with the trio for just under ten years. Charm Offensive is a show that is certainly charming, but it is only likely to be offensive to the most diehard amongst prudes. Somehow language that might be shunned even on a building site becomes perfectly acceptable when uttered by sophisticated ladies in evening dresses who have reached their prime years.

The show is a mixture of old and new. Greatest hits such as Dogging and Cheap Flights are almost obligatory, as is the Bulgarian song cycle, except that the lyrics of each of the short songs have been updated to make cutting references to the very latest news headlines. To prove themselves bang up to date, the ladies chant Facebook Blues and then Keane, who is now beginning to look like a very young Margaret Rutherford, re-brands herself as “Keane Dillie” to perform an energetic rap number. Later, she adopts the guise of a French chanteuse to ask Where Is Your Johnny Now, Johnny, which is very risqué but completely hilarious.

Topicality is high on the agenda, as the ladies become bankers’ wives pondering the dilemma of how to spend “his” bonus, they reflect on how their generation of baby boomers has ruined everything for succeeding generations and they lament the Eurozone crisis to the accompaniment of traditional Greek music. The centrepiece of this show lands a hefty swipe on the face of the British Education system and informs us that OFSTED is an acronym for “”Overpaid F***ers Shafting Teachers Every Day”.

The evening is not just a collection of comic numbers and crude jokes. Several wistful and poignant songs are blended skilfully into the mix to vary the mood. Look Mummy, No Hands is a lovely celebration of mother/daughter relationships and Old Home reflects nostalgically on places we have lived in but left behind. Pulman, who possesses a crystal clear soprano voice, sings of a first date between two divorcees and Anderson gives a deeply personal account of gender change. There are times during these more serious moments when the lyrics are so delicate and the rhymes so precise that it is possible to wonder whether the songs are really original or taken perhaps from a Sondheim musical.

Sending the audience home for the festive season, the ladies warn Try Not To Be A **** At Christmas, but, sadly, lack of BBC airplay may ruin it’s chances of ever being a contender for Christmas number one. As a couple of hours of cabaret, this is about as good as it can get, at least until Fascinating Aida come up with their next show.

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NotTelevision.net


Written by Ben Walters
Published on Tuesday, 24 December 2013
Performance reviewed: Charm Offensive, Southbank Centre 23 December 2013

When you’ve been around for a while, you pick up some moves. Now into their fourth decade of performance, musical comedy trio Fascinating Aïda demonstrate many a nifty turn in their latest run, Charm Offensive, which plays at the Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall until January 10, following a national tour. Funny, clever and unexpectedly moving, it’s a very worthy follow-up to 2012′s widely sold-out Cheap Flights, complementing the risqué gags and catchy melodies that distinguished that show with a richer emotional underpinning.

The act’s longevity is crucial to the evening’s success. Founder member Dillie Keane was joined by Adele Anderson early in the group’s life; Liza Pullman has been resident soprano for the past decade. (Anderson is on the right in the above picture by Johnny Boylan; Keane is centre and Pullman left, though neither of them looks much like that in person.) As you’d hope of an act of several decades’ standing, Fascinating Aïda can draw on an easy, charming on-stage chemistry – Keane is somewhat hangdog, Anderson wry and dry, Pullman plays the ingenue – and a hard-earned facility for the well-turned ditty. The consistently high quality of their songs’ lyrics and arrangements allows them to deploy a well-placed “wank”, “fuck” or “cunt” without bringing their copper-bottomed songwriting bona fides into question.

Their veteran status also affords them a considerable back catalogue of material, from recent favourites like Dogging and Cheap Flights to older material, including a heartfelt number about moving house. Such material, however, is used to bolster the set rather than underpin it; from snarky gags about Miley Cyrus to a rousing anti-Ofsted anthem à la Gilbert & Sullivan, there are more than enough topical references to prevent the group ever feeling like its own tribute act.

The trio’s longevity also allows them to draw on the experiences of ageing to considerable effect. There are songs here about realising with the death of one’s parents that “we’re next!”; about the baby-boomer generation having left the rest of us in the lurch; about struggling to be “down with the kids”. Some of the night’s outstanding moments are its unfunny songs: Keane and Pullman expertly deliver emotionally charged solos about the death of one’s mother and middle-aged dating respectively, while Anderson almost steals the show with a terrifically acted number sung from the perspective of a wife thrown over for an unremarkable peer (“Joyce?! Well, blow me, it’s Joyce…”), then does steal the show with Prisoner of Gender, a barnstormer ten years in the making about her own trans identity that received an appropriately rousing ovation from the audience. Focused on pre-adolescent feelings of alienation and despair, and funnier than the purely straight songs (it must be the only song out there to rhyme “thin and runty” with “I read Bunty”), it’s a remarkable number, courageous and conscientious and, one hopes, something that will personalise for many people an issue of which they have little direct experience.

At around two and a half hours including interval, it’s a generous set – perhaps over-generous, with a few numbers (about Facebook, rich girls or social taboos, for instance) that could conceivably be trimmed. And cheap gags at the expense of boomerang kids, Romanian immigrants or Tom Cruise being a “bender” occasionally threaten to undermine the boldly progressive edge established by sharp songs about education policy, toys aimed at girls or European economics. Overall, however, Charm Offensive is a terrifically confident outing that confirms Fascinating Aïda’s place at the top of their game. Call it time well spent.

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The Times


Written by Clive Davis
Published on Tuesday, 10 December 2013
Performance reviewed: Oxford New Theatre, 6 December 2013

A backstage glitch meant that the army of fans — a healthy number of young faces dotted among the middle-aged — had to wait outside in the cold. Once in the auditorium, they heard a sheepish Dillie Keane explain that the show’s lighting was still not functioning.

By the end I doubt anyone cared in the slightest. When the wordplay is as ingenious as this, you would not really mind if the theatre were plunged into pitch darkness, although that would mean missing the baleful, perfectly timed double-takes that Keane produces whenever Adèle Anderson or Liza Pulman negotiate a particularly risqué couplet.

In its 30th year, the Fascinating Aïda formula remains as potent as ever. Sometimes, the trio remind you of Noël Coward or Stephen Sondheim. Sometimes they can be as raucous as Chas & Dave (who would, nevertheless, not have the nerve to sing a ditty as unabashedly obscene — and hilarious — as Dogging).

Tempus fugit was the theme of the opening sequence, as the trio struggled to come to terms with their own mortality and all those grown-up children who somehow never quite manage to leave home. Politics of a Guardian hue made an appearance in a Gilbert and Sullivan-inspired ballad about Ofsted.The ever-popular Bulgarian folk-song cycle, fragments performed with deadpan precision, yielded news-related jokes that were quite a bit sharper — and occasionally more libellous — than anything the Have I Got News For You team can manage. Elsewhere, the evening sagged only during the slightly sentimental celebration of Anderson’s sexuality and an overcooked lament on behalf of a deserted wife.

The ladies spend a good part of the evening in diaphanous gowns that give them the look of slightly shop-soiled vestal virgins. Worshippers should make a date for the Southbank residency, which opens at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on December 22.

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