Fascinating Aida return to Edinburgh

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FOR three decades, Fascinating Aida, have been one of the country’s best loved cabaret acts. And while over that period the line-up may have changed many times (it included Bonnie Langford in 2000), one name has remained constant, that of founder member Dillie Keane.

At the Festival Theatre tomorrow, Adele Anderson, with the comedy trio since 1984, and Liza Pulman, a relative new-comer having joined in 2004, complete the line-up for Charm Offensive, Fascinating Aida’s latest show.

Fascinating Aida. Pic: Comp

Fascinating Aida. Pic: Comp

Famous for their unique brand of ‘filthy, witty and fabulous’ entertainment (think Victoria Wood but ruder with a 16+ warning), Fascinating Aida have been a hit on the cabaret circuit since making their debut in 1983. That was also the year they first appeared at the Fringe, returning again in 1984, but it was a failed documentary about British Airways stewardesses in 1985 that finally introduced them to a mainstream audience.

“Edinburgh certainly played a part in our success,” recalls Keane, “but the thing that really kicked us off in the beginning was a documentary that was made about us - and that was a complete accident.”

She explains, “The people making the documentary were filming British Airways’ air stewardesses. They had about three days of filming in the can when British Airways said, “Oh we didn’t realise you wanted to film them off-duty. I’m sorry, you can’t do that.’

“So suddenly they were desperate for a story. They rang us up and said, ‘What are you doing?’

“Now, we were having a terrible time. We were making a single and the record company were trying to turn us into a pop group.

“The documentary makers said, ‘That sounds interesting,’ so within about three days everything was signed, sealed and delivered, and we were making a documentary.

“That was January 1985 and it changed our fortunes overnight. Suddenly we were able to do the touring circuit and were earning enough to get along without having to do temping jobs as well.”

Keane has fond memories of those early days in Edinburgh too.

“In 1983, we played the tiny little Hole In The Ground, which was on the site of where the Traverse is now,” she says.

“It went well and then the following year we did very well. We did ten days at Richard Demarco’s and then sold out at the Assembly Rooms and were nominated for the Perrier Award. That was terrific, but still didn’t translate into quite enough work - people didn’t quite know what to make of us.”

The documentary changed all that and 30 years on those early struggles are just a distant memory. Already, Fascinating Aida are well on the way to selling out the 2000-seat Festival Theatre tomorrow.

“It does surprise me,” says Keane when asked if she ever expected the act to still be going.

“I never thought that an act like this would have such legs. What it shows is that we have been able to go on writing and producing new material - you can’t just keep going on the first hour of material. That is very pleasing

“But it also surprises me because we have had such changes of personnel over the years, that has made it terribly difficult to keep things going.”

Nevertheless, keep going they have, not least because of the talent and wit of Keane herself, one suspects.

Fascinating Aida, Festival Theatre, Nicolson Street, tomorrow, 7.30pm, £21, 0131-529 6000