Hidden away in David Hume Tower is Assembly’s Studio Five, which is home to the brilliant team consisting of Fascinating Aïda’s Adèle Anderson and West End Musical Director, Dean Austin. In the next hour, you will experience a delightful array of songs about disappointment, depression, and death.
Anderson, known for being the ‘tall one’ from Fascinating Aïda, manages to meld her powerful vocals and comic one liners together during musical numbers that promise darkness but feel positively light-hearted. There is no ‘wink-wink-nudge-nudge’ attitude, every song being done with an ironic smile or deadpan look as she performs Ray Jessel’s ‘That Old Kurt Weill Song’. The use of ‘trigger warnings’ before a questionable line in some of the older numbers is wittily placed during the song at times, interrupting the dark mood with a lighter pause. It is undeniable that Anderson’s vocals are stunning with a range and power that never cease to impress. Not only is the humour uplifting, but her soaring vocals are too.
The set list itself is beautifully put together, ranging from Cole Porter’s ‘Love for Sale’, to narrative songs such as Jeff Barry and Ben Raleigh’s ‘Tell Laura I love Her’ and Daniel Cainer’s ‘The road to Marseille’. Anderson is confident in her capacity to tell a story within the lyrics but also concisely summarise the amusing context of a song, such as who previously sang a number or how the set was chosen. This includes how the inspiration of the show rests on one specific song that Anderson wanted to perform.
However, the stand out number has to be Anderson’s own song, ‘My Flat’, in which she takes us through her abode, singing brilliant puns about her break up and how the relationship went flat in each part of the house – inevitably ending up in the bedroom. With each room, she travels across the stage sitting with a blank expression as she sings about ‘just sitting in her kitchen/living room/bedroom/garden/hall’.
Austin and Anderson have a strong bond as performers. Clearly in synchronicity they communicate with faint nods or gestures, but no other form of communication is needed. Austin accompanies Anderson beautifully, playing with theatricality but never encroaching on Anderson’s spotlight nor having his moment encroached upon. The set consists of numbers that show off Austin’s musical talent as much as Anderson’s voice. With a small stage allowing space for just the two performers, it is a cosy fit but an intimate location for a night of comedy and music. The lighting design is also used sparingly but to good effect, with stained-glass windows being presented through multi coloured gels or the use of limited light to suggest a sombre mood.
This is an unmissable performance that promises light hearted humour through songs of disappointment, depression, and death and delivers comedy in every number.
Fascinating Aïda’s Adèle Anderson
Assembly George Square Studios – Five
Until 26 August
Image: Steve Ullathorne