Bounder and Cad
Crazy Coqs at Brasserie Zédel, London W1
Reviewed by Jarlath O'Connell
Bounder and Cad are a comedy cabaret duo comprising Adam Drew and Guy Hayward, basically two young posh blokes in dinner jackets. They follow in a long, much loved, British tradition of erudite, gentle, musical parody from the likes of Flanders and Swann to Kit and the Widow or indeed Fry and Laurie.
Like all those they too perfected their musical craft whilst studying at Cambridge and their songs are suffused with that caustic wit and love of wordplay and innuendo which is quintessentially British. Think of them as a male Fascinating Aida.
Both have trained voices which are soft and melodious and they bring all the urbane charm you'd expect from such a pair. Their lyrics poke gentle fun at British obsessions and institutions be they dreary picnics, queuing for Wimbledon or the latest national religion: The Great British Bake Off. The latter involves them hilariously parodying TV bakers Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood in a contrapuntal gem titled 'The Flour Duet' after Delibes.
Their repertoire is a mixture of their own compositions and Drew's lyrics added to well-known tunes. They give Rodgers & Hart's 'The Lady is a Tramp' a clever dusting off as a hymn to the older woman. Like many before them they update Cole Porter's 'Let's Do It', (most famously updated by Noel Coward in his Vegas shows in the 60's), but here their well-polished lines are just too rushed and in the end they lack the tartness which made the originals so memorable.
This very talented duo are well on their way, having performed at the real Downton Abbey and at No. 10, yet there is still a reticence about their stage presentation that they will need to overcome. Part of the challenge is that there is too little differentiation between their stage personas, which makes delivering the comedy harder. They also need to really go for the jugular and not be afraid of upsetting their hosts if they really want to make it as satirists. Their lampooning of Prince Harry is a case in point. It is way too timid and if they're intent on not upsetting upper class hosts, then they're not going to go anywhere, at least outside of that set.
They are blessed with a wonderfully talented pianist, Ben Comeau, who as well as providing pristine accompaniment, displays his own virtuosity by taking requests from the audience and playing any theme tune in any musical style. We got Star Wars in the style of Fats Waller and a wonderful Wagnerian take on Postman Pat. There is also a great ice breaker party game which turns on the toss of a coin and embraces the whole audience. This is all carried off with great aplomb.
You would have expected a Brexit song (are they hiding from it perhaps?) but instead we got a 'Grexit' one about Angela Merkel and Alexis Tsipras in the style of Summer Lovin' and Grease'd Lightnin'. Witty, but that was two years ago!
Bounder and Cad are part of an exciting new programme www.Liveatzedel.com at this great venue which is going from strength to strength. New programming has widened the range of acts beyond cabaret and jazz to comedy and spoken word and incorporates big names (Maria Friedman, Beverly Craven, Julia Fordham) and newcomers. Like Brasserie Zédel and the Bar Américan in the same complex it is packed and now a 'destination' venue.