“Late Night Lock In”
Shirley and Shirley Assembly Reviewed 21st August 5 stars
Was this cabaret? What even is cabaret? There was a bit of burlesque song-and-dance at the end, although like with anything the Shirleys do it didn’t turn out how you were expecting.
Shirley and Shirley have billed themselves as a sketch act, and it’s as good a description as any – although their combination of skits, banter, music, dance, and light audience interaction could fit under vaudeville.
They’ve a number of characters they’ve been working on for several years (this is their sixth Fringe); and although some of them betray a slight over-reliance on middle-class London twenty- or thirty-something women, there’s humour even when the outlines get a bit blurry. Their best bits are those sharply-drawn absurdicals like the Middletons with Caribbean inflections, or the gay Italian brothers.
It’s an enormously fun room, fuelled by the performers’ clear enjoyment as much as the strength of their material and delivery. They play fast and loose with their gags, and work well with the audience members who they bring in to participate (as well as each other). When Tall Shirley surprised us with a grin and a climax delivered from a spurting marital aid, it was difficult to say whether she or the audience was having more fun. The bobbing for dildos bit also had both ends of the stage cracking up.
There’s not as much of a focus on Benny Hill humour as the preceding few sentences might suggest. I even detected an undertone of political awareness throughout, although it’s never didactic nor prudish. Combined with the fact that this is one of the 17% of acts this year that managed the feat of being female, even the most frivolous of juvenalia put on by Shirley and Shirley has an interesting edge.
Of course, it can seem patronising even to mention. But I think it’s important to recognise that this is a 5-star review because it’s a 5-star show. I’ve had arguments that the Fringe needs more female comedians next year; but I think absolutely everyone will agree that Shirley and Shirley need a bigger venue.