Live Review: Flo & Joan, Soho Theatre

Live Review: Flo & Joan, Soho Theatre

Flo & Joan's publicist asked me to ensure that I put an ampersand and not the full word "and" between their names when I wrote this review. I guess the musical comedy duo want to exert the same sort of precision over their billing as they do over their lyrics. Each of their songs in their current show is so intricately and neatly constructed they could probably moonlight building rockets for NASA or Swiss wind-up watches. 

The latter is probably the best alternative career for Nicola and Rosie Dempsey as they already excel at musical wind-ups. If you know them for their Nationwide Bank TV adverts you might think of these real-life sisters as whimsical and twee. But onstage they are much tougher than that, with considerably more edge. They even start the gig with dry ice and drumming alongside their trademark keyboards. Gosh, they are almost like a real band. 

Subject matter ranges from having more confidence to attacking anti-vaxxers to serial killers. The lyrics come with beautiful verbal twists and the music often spins off in unexpected directions too. One number, which becomes something of a running gag, starts off as a ye olde English folk song, complete with close harmonies, before morphing into something much more contemporay.

The closest comparison is Flight of the Conchords, where the lyrics and the music are often also an odd but very winning mismatch. Though I don't think the Kiwi combo ever did a song about leaving a party without anybody noticing or getting irate about a parcel delivery. A couple of Flo & Joan's songs have a strong Conchords flavour, others less so. Flo & Joan certainly move around musically, one moment doing a jaunty pop number, the next sounding like a Berlin cabaret band from the 1930s. 

Between the songs the banter is wilfully stiff, hinting at an undercurrent of sororial tension. There is a lot of chat about the pros and cons – mostly cons – of being siblings in a band. The title of the show, Before The Screaming Starts, is a nod to the Bros doc, After The Screaming Stops. It's slightly contrived that the gig ends with something of a mock-rock showdown between the duo, but it's a very funny showdown so I think we can allow it.

Until Saturday then on tour. Details here.


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