You may have heard of real-life sisters Flo and Joan (real names Nicola and Rosie Dempsey) from their song about 2016 that did the internet rounds last year. Or you may not – they were at the Fringe last year, and have been steadily gaining acclaim for their joyously deadpan, tongue-in-cheek comedic music. They’re back again, just as witty as ever, but perhaps in need of further development.
The humour of the sisters’ songs is deliberately bathetic, akin to having the rug pulled out from under your feet. Their songs swing from the everyday to the absurd within seconds, slyly manipulating our expectations to hit us with brilliantly-timed punchlines when we least expect them to. There’s quite a range of bases covered, too – in the hour-long show, we hear songs about bees, catcalling, a sausage shop, and a lady in the woods with an astonishing list of traits to her name.
Because Flo and Joan are good, their songs are, for anyone who hasn’t seen them before, surprising, funny and sharp. But now that they know how to catch their audience off-guard with left-field jokes, I couldn’t help but wish this had carried through to the form of the show, or the filler between songs.
Seldom as funny as the songs themselves, the talky bits between songs are more miss than hit, lacking the clarity and zest of their music. The occasional link between songs, or tiny thematic links that pop up later, are too tenuous or half-hearted. The show could do with a strong theme, a through-line or current to make the overall impact feel as well-crafted as the songs themselves.
Let’s not downplay the brilliance of Flo and Joan – their songs are hilarious, their humour blunt and yet not macabre, wry yet hopeful. It’s great fun to watch, and a fab edition to the Fringe which can, from time to time, be a bit gloomy. It would be a treat to see them develop as an act, crafting the entire show with as much wit and meticulousness as the songs themselves. But at face-value, The Kindness of Stranglers still packs a pitch-perfect punch.
The Kindness of Stranglers is playing at Just the Tonic at The Tron until August 26. For more information and tickets, visit https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/flo-joan-the-kindness-of-stranglers