Flanders and Swann Pleasance

I must admit I was a wee bit disappointed that they didn’t sound much like the Flanders and Swann I remember from listening to the radio as a child. Tim Fitzhigham as Flanders has a good voice but it sounded a bit hoarse and strained at times and the duetting with excellent pianist Duncan Atkins as Swann wasn’t quite as slick as the originals. However, the songs are marvellous and the banter in between is funny and engaging so all is forgiven.

Flanders and Swann formed a working partnership after the war writing comic songs and became famous for their popular long running revue show “At the Drop of a Hat” in the 50s and 60s. Tim and Duncan are obviously big fans as they have been performing this double act for eight years now and it is to their credit they are keeping these wonderful songs alive for new and old audiences alike. They received the ultimate approval by being asked to perform a private concert for the families of Flanders and Swann themselves.

The songs are a mix of the well-known favourites as well as some lesser known ones. We all know and love the Hippopotamus Song and everyone heartily joins in with the chorus of “Mud, mud glorious mud, nothing quite like it for cooling the blood…” Then we have The Gasman Cometh, Ill Wind (or Mozart’s Horn Concerto), I’m a Gnu, Have Some Madeira M’Dear. You may not recognise the song title but you will recognise the songs as soon as they begin – we’ve heard them on the radio or seen and heard countless parody versions of them, for example by TV comedians Armstrong and Miller. The lyrics aren’t dated and stand up remarkably well. Lesser known songs include 20 Tons of TNT, a song their record company tried to ban them from singing as its subject matter was considered too controversial – 20 tons of TNT being the amount of explosives for every human being in the total amount of nuclear capability in the world at that time.

Fitzhigham and Atkins are an engaging pair and make this a very pleasant hour of old fashioned entertainment.

Irene Brownlee