Interview: Frisky And Mannish, Laura Corcoran and Matthew Jones
WHICH one's Frisky and which one's Mannish? That's the first question that springs to mind as Laura Corcoran and Matthew Jones settle down for a chat in a secluded corner of Tempus in the George Hotel.
They're half in and half out of character, they reveal, wearing only a fraction of the make-up and costume their alter-egos would normally don. Yes, the real Corcoran and Jones are breaking through, but which is which?
Could Jones, slightly built and effortlessly camp possibly be Mannish? Or is it Corcoran, bubbly and just a bit more dominant - in a glamorously feminine way, of course?
But then, perhaps Jones, a bundle of barely contained nervous energy, is more Frisky than Mannish. Although so too is Corcoran – when she laughs, a daring twinkle sparkles from her mascara-d eyes.
"There was never any doubt about who would be who," says Jones, feigning outrage at the confusion.
"There was, just for a moment," counters Corcoran, before they both start laughing.
If you've yet to come across Frisky And Mannish, you soon will. Hotly tipped to be the 'big new thing' by the end of their first Fringe run, the duo are being touted as TV and radio stars of the future.
Described as a twisted comedy cabaret double-act, they bring Frisky and Mannish's School of Pop, to the Underbelly this month.
As Felicity Fitz-Frisky, an English eccentric, and Hansel Amadeus Mannish, a gypsy genius, the pair intend to "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 sometimes put it "just tit about with pop songs".
The Dexy's Midnight Runners' classic Come On Eileen is the perfect example. It might still fill the dance floor at wedding receptions the length of the country, but given the Frisky And Mannish treatment it becomes something quite different: 'The ballad of Eileen Johnson, housewife, 49, tells of her despair over her son's choice to live as a woman. Her husband Bert Johnson, 52, hasn't noticed. Billy E Johnson, or Belinda van Jn, 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.'
"Me and my brother used to be massively into DJ mash-ups," explains Corcoran, who plays Frisky. "And both Matthew and I love that pop culture of doing parodies – taking something familiar and changing it to comic effect."
Jones, who is indeed Mannish, takes up the tale, "The act began when a friend asked if we would do a performance at a charity fundraiser they were organising on the Battersea Barge.
"As we'd both performed before I think she expected ten minutes of musical theatre standards but we were in a bit of a lull at the time and decided to do something different and mess around with a few songs.
"As we were last on the bill we thought everybody would be so drunk that it wouldn't matter if it didn't work as nobody would remember.
"We had this book of popular songs by the likes of Chesney Hawkes and George Michael and we just started going through it, thinking how we could make the songs funny.
"Really we were just doing it to be silly, but everyone loved it. Then someone asked if we'd perform in their bar, and someone else wanted us for their cabaret night. That was when we stopped being silly and began to think of it as a concept."
The first four songs to be given the Frisky And Mannish treatment were Madonna's Papa Don't Preach, which was sung as an aria before rocking out at the end; a very smokey and sultry performance of the anthemic 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.
"That was the first one that trod a little bit of a line and touched on where we were going to go," says Corcoran, nervously.
They finished that first appearance back in 2008,with the aforementioned Come On Eileen. Slightly more than a year later the pair, who met while reading English at Oxford, are one of the most in- demand acts on the cabaret circuit, having performed in New York, Berlin and enjoyed a sold-out season at Leicester Square Theatre, London.
Born within a week of each other, the 24-year-olds credit "pop stars, pop music and cabaret duos like Kit And The Widow" as their influences.
"Matthew was born on 3 March, I was born on 9 March and Frisky And Mannish were born in the middle on 5 March, so we are all cosmically aligned," smiles Corcoran, before turning her attention to the darker side of the act.
"We have a little collection of love songs that are our warped numbers," she admits. "Songs that most people think of as really beautiful love songs we do from a stalker's point of view. But even though we say we do a twisted pop cabaret, and some of it does have that dark edge to it, predominantly we want it to have an element of silliness."
Jones adds, "We want to point out how ridiculous Girls Aloud are when they keep trying to be sexy, to mock the production ascetics of pop, more than do anything horrendously macabre."
Subverting pop in that way has seen them produce an outrageous version of Chris de Burgh's A Spaceman Came Travelling, a chilling take on Bonnie Tyler's Total Eclipse Of The Heart and a hilarious rendition of the Ting Tings' That's Not My Name.
"It's very important to us when choosing our material that we choose the most well known songs." says Corcoran. "And also every so often we throw in one that hasn't been heard for ages," finishes Jones.
Corcoran again: "The twist tends to come from the lyrics. We very rarely change lyrics. We just find something in the lyrics that suggest something else. Like in Eternal Flame, it was the line, 'I watch you when you are sleeping' – which is a bit weird."
As is their name. "Our name come from Don Juan by Byron," says Corcoran.
"There's a line, 'Lady Fitz-Frisky, and Miss Maevia Mannish, both long'd extremely to be sung in Spanish.' At that point we had just written a Spanish version of George Michael's Careless Whisper so we called ourselves Lady Fitz-Frisky and Miss Maevia Mannish... just because it sounded really weird."
The name has been abbreviated since – just don't get them muddled.
Frisky And Mannish's School of Pop, Underbelly – Belly Dancer, Cowgate, 9pm, until 30 August, 6-10.50, 0844-545 8252
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