Comedy cabaret duo Frisky and Mannish fulfil dream with New Year gig

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SCHOOL of Pop introduced Edinburgh audiences to the “twisted comedy cabaret” of Frisky and Mannish.

That was the title of their 2009 Fringe show, with which they made their Capital debut, garnering critical acclaim and rave reviews along the way.

They’ve been back every year since, going from strength to strength, and now they’ve been invited to appear at Edinburgh’s Hogmanay.

The pair, better known to friends and family as Laura Corcoran and Matthew Jones, will top the bill on The Mound Party Stage, hosted by The Great Calverto and supported by The Cuban Brothers and X Factor’s Jade Richards.

Jones is over the moon, but laughs, “I just hope we won’t actually have to be on stage for the countdown. We haven’t been told exactly when we are on yet, but if we’re told to perform until 11.59pm, we’ll be like, ‘No, we want some Champagne!’”

For those yet to make their acquaintance, Jones is Mannish and Corcoran is Frisky. As Felicity Fitz-Frisky, an English eccentric, and Hansel Amadeus Mannish, a gypsy genius, the pair “uncover the unfamiliar elements dormant within the ubiquitous pop classics” and “re-educate the world as to the plethora of possibilities hidden within such seemingly innocuous hits as Come On Eileen, and Thriller . . .”

Or as they have been known to put it, “we just tit about with pop songs”.

Consequently, the aforementioned Dexy’s Midnight Runners classic becomes something quite different – the ballad of 49-year-old housewife Eileen Johnson and of her despair over her son’s choice to live as a woman. Her husband hasn’t noticed that Billy E Johnson, or Belinda van Jön, now works at the Sparkle Glitter Club in Stockport, formerly Poco a Poco. Eileen is determined to come to terms with her son’s choices. This song depicts her struggle.

It’s all a bit bizarre, as are their versions of other classics. Tracks like Madonna’s Papa Don’t Preach (sung as an aria before rocking out at the end), Eye Of The Tiger (complete with a bluegrass-style chorus) and Meatloaf’s I Will Do Anything For Love (sung by a very young child).

The Hogmanay gig is the culmination of three years of hard work for the 26-year-olds.

“I first heard of the Edinburgh Street Party five years ago when a friend of my parents went and came back raving about it,” says Jones.

“Laura was saying just the other day that it’s another thing ticked of our ambition list.

“We’ve had a couple of those already, things like playing the Sydney Opera House.

“This will end up on that list of things where we’ll be like, ‘Can you believe that we got that opportunity?’ That said, we don’t really know what to expect so the excitement factor is really high.”

Their invitation came as the result of a joke and some very shrewd chat, reveals Jones.

“Our technical manager, the guy who is responsible for Frisky and Mannish getting to the next level of technical expertise, is Barry Hilton. We were all chatting in the bar after one of our gigs in Hull. In the company was someone involved in the running of the Hull Freedom Festival who was also involved in the running of Edinburgh’s Hogmanay.

“We started talking about it and Laura and I said to Barry, ‘We’re going to the bar. If you can get us on Hogmanay by the time we get back that would be great.’

“We walked off to get some drinks and by the time we got back Barry had managed to secure this guy in quite a serious conversation about us doing it.

“It had actually been a bit of a drunken joke and I still find it incredible that he managed to get us on the bill.”

Frisky and Mannish are, of course, no strangers to the Capital. It was here that Jones and Corcoran set themselves a make-or-break challenge just over two years ago.

“Edinburgh was the origin of everything and the reason we are still doing it. We came to that first Edinburgh Fringe with the attitude, ‘Let’s throw it all at Edinburgh. If it happens, it happens, if it doesn’t, we’ll just go back to other jobs.’

“2009 is the sole reason we are still going so strong. Edinburgh was where we learned how to do what we do and showed everyone else what we do. That makes it a very important place for us.”

Their Hogmanay show, however, will be very different from that first Fringe show.

“It will look and feel completely different,” confirms Jones.

“The style we are now going for is a lot more technically fulfilled – we have projections and tracks. It’s bigger and showier than just the two of us and a piano.

“We think of it as a logical procession. The shows have grown in an organic way. It’s still just us on stage – and we want to retain that – but the fact that we both love dancing and I now don’t have to be stuck behind the piano is great.

He adds, “Despite the expanded staging, the underlying concept is basically the same however, which is we execute anything about pop music that amuses us in a satirical and spoofy way.”

With Hogmanay being broadcast around the world, their appearance will hopefully also help them fulfil their New Year’s resolution

“2012 is the year of getting Frisky and Mannish on to the TVs of the world,” says Jones with a big grin.

Then it really would be a Happy New Year.

Mound Party Stage, live from 9pm-1am, £15 0844 894 2011