Tim FitzHigham and Duncan Walsh-Atkins may not have written their own material, but that certainly didn’t stop them owning the stage on Friday night. In their Flanders and Swann tribute night, the duo sang, played and genuinely entertained the audience from beginning to end.
FitzHigham’s singing and self-deprecating stand-up combined with Atkins piano playing was the perfect mix of style and substance. The audience were encouraged to sing along with old favourites like ‘The Hippopotamus Song’ and ‘The Gas Man Cometh’ while also being treated to lesser known numbers and monologues by FitzHigham. The pair exercised their comic timing brilliantly, and throughout the show it was obvious they were enjoying themselves. FitzHigham in particular never seemed to stop and gave his all to every number, joke or facial expression.
Despite their collective age, the audience cheered, whooped and popped along and never showed signs of tiring. The interval was filled with discussions about who’d seen the originals and where, but everybody seemed to agree FitzHigham and Atkins did them proud.
During the song ‘Slow Train’, the duo was able to dedicate their shows to the originals and the tone in the theatre was one of respect and nostalgia. These songs are true masterpieces and FitzHigham and Atkins certainly showed them off to their full potential.
Flanders and Swann were particularly known for their Animal Songs and the evening included all the anticipated highlights from this section. Building on expectations through the introduction of one song, FitzHigham and Atkins surprised the audience when the famous song mentioned was in fact about a rhinoceros. Later in the show, the animal songs were revived with their rendition of ‘The Ostrich’. FitzHigham’s ostrich accent was genius and had everyone in the audience laughing along with him. The darkly comic song ‘Madeira, M’Dear’, sung while Fitzhigham wore a hat at “a rakish angle”, proved highly amusing, and was followed up by an authentic anecdote about a young girl who loved the song because she thought it was about cake.
Early in the first half, FitzHigham looked for praise for their ‘seamless’ transitions between songs and stories. Praise, in this case, cannot be denied. FitzHigham managed to make these moments seem natural and unrehearsed; as if he was simply telling the audience what he thought and felt, right at that moment. At the same time, Atkins was able to keep up with this and never seemed to miss a beat, except when planned – a move that was fantastically executed by both.
The show suffered through a few microphone issues, but this was soon fixed and did not detract from the overall enjoyment of the night. The mix of music, anecdote, and jokes at Atkins’ expense lead to a thoroughly brilliant evening.