Kit Hesketh-Harvey and James McConnel

The Edinburgh Academy

From 15 August 2013 to 25 August 2013

Rating: ****

Review by Louise Lewis

Kit Hesketh Harvey is back for the 29th year running with a cabaret duo at the Edinburgh Fringe. Famous for his Kit and the Widow work, it’s only his second year performing alongside the immensely talented pianist and singer James McConnel (who also happens to be his new husband).

Delivering a genteel brand of camp satire, the pair jolly through songs about Vladamir Putin, the lack of a leading man in the Labour Party and Nigella’s divorce, amongst other topical subjects. The innuendo is ever present, delivered with such sharpness and wit that the pair even dare broach the dreaded Jimmy Saville matter.

Hesketh-Harvey commands a devoted audience, some of which may have been attending for the last 29 years. His patter remains fresh and fast, but amazing amounts of puns and cheeky references flew over the aging crowd.

The pair are ex-Sondheim students, and have written a host of musicals themselves. Their cabaret songs range from reworked classics like Abba’s "Fernando" (‘there was something in the food that night at Nando’s’), to concocting bluesy interludes like "I’ll See You in Florence".

McConnel works wonders, creating a new piece on the spot derived from Liszt’s list of letters, deriving a theme from the first name of a member of the audience. Writing a fantasy to ‘Marion’ presented rather a challenge, the name creating a chromatic cluster of notes to play with. Astoundingly, McConnel’s improvising flowed flawlessy and provided a chance to show off the level of his pianistic prowess.

At times the duo seemed a little under-rehearsed, but their material was hot off the press referencing the current gay rights debacle in Russia. Once the pair’s singing is tightened up and the memory slips are erased, this will be a 5-star show.

It’s worth walking the absurd distance to this far-flung venue for a treat that had everyone in the audience laughing, and even singing along in an operatic finale.