The Festival Theatre
Everyone has a first memory. For comedian, Tim FitzHigham that memory is Flanders and Swann. In an interview with The Student, he explained his love for the musical comedy duo, his desire to recreate their work, and why it’s the perfect show to calm our essay nerves and cure November stresses.
FitzHigham and his partner in crime, Duncan Walsh-Atkins, first brought back the work of Michael Flanders and Donald Swann in 2001 in an attempt to raise money for a cottage hospital in Sussex, not only did they manage this, they stumbled onto something that has been loved the length of the country. After the initial performances they toured various festivals and eventually realised that the show has too much life not to be seen live. More than ten years later, the show is still a success and both are coming to the Festival Theatre, Edinburgh. For FitzHigham, the unbelievable thing about the whole process is that night after night he is able to produce something that he originally enjoyed as a fan.
FitzHigham’s enthusiasm for the show is contagious. After just a ten-minute conversation, it is clear he is loving his job and the responsibility of performing this classic material to audiences as far away as Australia. He speaks fondly of the original tours, when they would play wherever one or more were gathered, and would revel in bringing back material that was in danger of being forgotten. This process of revival is one thing FitzHigham seems particularly passionate about. He mentions the hole in the performance circuit, and the limited television coverage, as one of the main reasons for beginning the show in the first place.
When asked if the show had any particular relevance for students today, FitzHigham is adamant. Flanders and Swann are a vital cog in comedy history; if you’re looking for the missing link between Noel Coward and Peter Cook, it’s Flanders and Swann. If you’re looking for one of Spike Milligan’s greatest influences, it’s Flanders and Swann. Anyone remotely interested in comedy will find huge appeal, seeing the favourites of all our current favourites. If your interest lies more in theatre, he promises us you’ll still find something exciting in the history of the show. Flanders and Swann started out when The Lord Chamberlain’s Regulations had to be read at the start of every performance at the theatre. Donald Swann revolutionised this process by setting them to music and making something brilliantly witty out of what was essentially the same as the piracy video at the cinema.
This show is the perfect blend of silliness and satire. Songs like ‘The Ostrich Song’ appeal on so many levels and give audience members a chance to laugh at the sheer stupidity of a song about nuclear disarmament and ostriches. If you still need persuaded that this isn’t a show you want to miss, remember that the Muppets covered Flanders and Swann and as Tim FitzHigham says: “If it’s good enough for Kermit, it’s good enough for me.” Shouldn’t that be enough for you too?