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Review: Hold Very Tight, Please! Flanders and Swann tribute by Sovra Newman and Leon Berger, Criterion Theatre, Blue Town, Sheerness

It was a virtual zoo at the Criterion Theatre, Blue Town, Sheerness, on Saturdaywhen singers Sovra Newman and Leon Berger came to call.

The pair presented an evening of music from comedy songwriters Michael Flanders and Donald Swann.

Sovra Newman and Leon Berger presenting a tribute to Flanders and Swan at the Criterion Theatre, Blue Town, Sheppey
Sovra Newman and Leon Berger presenting a tribute to Flanders and Swan at the Criterion Theatre, Blue Town, Sheppey

Hits included a tribute to London's red double-decker bus, a classic tale of the British workman in The Gas-Man Cometh and countless chirpy tunes about animals.

There was one about a lazy three-towed sloth, another dedicated to a sad, lonely whale called Mopy Dick, an ode to an armadillo which had mistakenly fallen in love with an abandoned army tank on Salisbury Plain and one in praise of an ugly warthog.

There was the more famous Gnu Song and a rousing version of the Hippopotamus Song when the audience, mostly of a certain age, burst into the chorus of "mud, mud, glorious mud."

It was a fascinating insight into the lives of the two men from fine baritone singer Leon who is archivist of their work. He also worked with Swann before his death.

As a result, there were lesser-known tunes from the archives such as In The Bath, House and Garden, a homage to Miranda from Shakespeare's Tempest, a ditty about dieting Americans, a Cold War comment in Twenty Tonnes of TNTand a desperate love song called Anyone Will Do written for, and rejected by, Norman Wisdom.

Sovra Newman and Leon Berger of The Food Of Love present an evening of Flanders and Swann songs at the Criterion Theatre, Blue Town, on Saturday
Sovra Newman and Leon Berger of The Food Of Love present an evening of Flanders and Swann songs at the Criterion Theatre, Blue Town, on Saturday

There were some unexpected Island connections in The Seven Ages of Woman, which included a reference to atom bomb nuclear physicist Sir William Penny, who attended Sheerness Technical High School, and a homage to Dr Richard Beeching who came from Sheppey and ended up closing down hundreds of miles of Britain's branch lines, called Slow Train.

It was an intimate gathering with Sovra, in sequinned black dress and diamond necklace, and Leon in dinner suit and bow tie, perched on vertigo-inducing high stools separated by an even higher table and reading from a tightly written script.

Both have tremendously powerful opera-trained voices and at times almost didn't need any help from the microphones.

Tim Smith accompanied the pair on the Criterion's salvaged grand piano.

Michael Flanders, left, and Donald Swann at the piano on stage
Michael Flanders, left, and Donald Swann at the piano on stage

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