Like the man said two out of three isn’t bad or, to put it another way, the third out of four consecutive nights marking the 10th anniversary of the relaunching of The Pheasantry – and this third day was actually 10 years to the day – was a close-run thing with Day One, leaving Day Two a bad nowhere.
If you’re looking for a sub-head for this piece you could do a lot worse than Lyrics In Chelsea, because all three acts were built around lyrics and all the lyrics were enunciated clearly and performed as the lyricists would have wished; in other words the vocalists were content to be just that and had no eyes to become alchemists and turn ballads to rap or what have you.
First up was Sarah Moule, accompanied on the piano by Simon Wallace, who is also Sarah’s husband; he also composed all the music, working with the distinguished lyricist Fran Landesman. If there was nothing to compare with top-of-the-line Landesman – A Brontosaurus Named Bert, The Ballad Of The Sad Young Men, Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most – there was much to admire in things like A Magician’s Confession, Scars, etc and Moule, who is clearly a Landesman buff, gave everything, be it ballad or bouncer, a sympathetic reading and got the evening off to a great start.
Simon Wallace came back to the stand to play behind Pete Atkin who also accompanied himself on guitar. Once again all the music was the work of a single composer, in this case Atkin himself, and once again the words came from the pen of a distinguished writer, Australian Clive James. The pair wrote as a team for the thick end of 50 years and whilst they lacked the profile of initially Rodgers and Hart and subsequently Rodgers and Hammerstein they did acquire a strong fan base.
The half dozen titles performed by Atkin spanned a fairly decent spectrum illustrating their range – Beware Of The Beautiful Stranger, Master Of The Revels, Perfect Moments, Empty Table. I hadn’t heard Atkin before this evening and as soon as he opened his mouth I thought this is another Sinatra, not Frank Sinatra, another Sinatra; on the other hand his voice is a fine conduit for the material. Although I’m never going to abandon Cole Porter, Larry Hart, Frank Loesser or even our own Noel Coward and embrace the “new boys” like James and Atkin, I can respect what they are trying to do and indeed have succeeded in if audience reaction is any guide.
Kit & McConnel is the time-honoured Kit & The Widow under a change of name for which the reason eludes me. Although the first time I saw them was in a kosher theatre (The Vaudeville) their natural habitat is cabaret, ideally a small room like The Pheasantry where they can interact with the audience much more easily without a proscenium between them. Although we tend to think of them primarily as purveyors of witty topical songs they do devote a large portion of time to cross-talk including what amounts to a good cop/bad cop routine which the audience lap up as much as they do the songs. On Wednesday their current musical material – Nandos, The Man From Amazon, Thor, Grandchildren and Klaar Me Vree Marn Tin was well up to snuff and it’s fair to say that this was the most outstanding of the three acts.
Pheasantry, The First Decade, Day Three: Sarah Moule; Pete Atkin; Kit & McConnel. The Pheasantry, Kings Road, London SW3 4UT, 13 November 2019