Until last night, I am sad to say that I was a Kit and the Widow virgin. In the theatrical sense, of course. I have followed them on radio and television for as many years as I can remember but this was my first exposure to them live and in the flesh. And I have to say that I really shouldn’t have waited. They are as near to comic song perfection as you are likely to find anywhere in the world at the moment. The natural inheritors of the traditions of Messers Flanders and Swann, they inhabit that niche of satirical entertainment that should never be allowed to die out.
This tour is a celebration of the fact that they have both reached the age of 50. Age has not dimmed their comic timing nor their ability to hone in on their targets – be they the airport hand luggage regulations, the horrors of Guantanamo Bay or the seductive teasings of Nigella Lawson. They are both gifted musicians in their own right (though I don’t think Kit should give up singing for the violin) and they have a warmth that fills the theatre. There is – as there has always been – a large element of camp in what they do. Everything is always done in a very playful way but I enjoy the fact that there is always an edge to their humour.
It always helps to be well-versed in both the classics and popular culture to get the most out of Kit and the Widow – with songs exposing Edith Sitwell as the godmother of modern rap and Andrew Lloyd Webber as a serial nicker of tunes. Erudition and a keen wit are always on display. There are also moments of genuine emotion punctuating the show – in particular ‘Rockabye’ a song of a father seeking divine protection for his daughter is a moment that will stay with me for a long time.
Kit and the Widow are, in the own small way, a national treasure – in the same vein as Stephen Fry, Fascinating Aida and Sandi Toksvig (who can almost be forgiven for her Danish roots). In an era when comedy writing can tend towards the lowest common denominator, such intelligence and panache is to be cherished and celebrated. Let us hope that they return to Oxford in the very near future.
Simon Tavener (DI Reviewer), 14/07/08