When Shropshire window-dresser-turned-gigolo George (pronounced with a soft ‘g’ the glamorous French way) meets cat burglar Frankie in Saint-Tropez, an unlikely friendship forms.
Worried she has lost her touch as a thief, Frankie, played by Ida Berglöw Kenneway, attempts to steal the town’s famous diamond. Little does she know George, played by Nathan Grassi, has had the same idea, thinking fame and fortune will get him noticed by handsome actor Beau Regarde. Working together might be the only way they will pull off the heist.
Using a collection of fake moustaches, pipes and hats pulled from suitcases at the front of the stage, Kenneway and Grassi transformed the Old Fire Station into the French Riviera. Comically bad French phrases, as well as short character vignettes of policemen and fishermen, had much of the audience in stitches.
But the real charm of Tropez! comes from the chemistry between Kenneway and Grassi, and the strength of the main storyline. The same is true of Nathan and Ida’s Hotdog Stand, shown first in this Saturday evening double bill, and reviewed brilliantly here by Heather Kay. Emigrants Nathan and Ida Hardwerker meet and fall in love on Coney Island where they are trying to make better lives for themselves. As a result of hard work, determination, and Ida’s grandmother’s secret sauce recipe, they overcome hardships to open and run the best hot dog stand in town.
A jewellery heist and an American Dream tale are not original stories, but their nostalgia and familiarity work in the pair’s favour in these two hour-long comedies. Saying that, for me the moments of absurdity – such as Nathan salsa dancing with a hotdog, and two fleas in a pub contemplating their own existence – provided the most hilarity. While French and American stereotypes are easy wins, these strokes of originality were what elevated the shows. I would have liked to see more original character work and more bizarrely creative scenes.
Kenneway and Grassi are both members of Oxford-based The Dead Secrets, interviewed here on the Oxcast. They won best performance at the Swindon Fringe festival in 2018 and best comedy at Buxton Fringe in the same year. Their new shows have racked up many five-star reviews. They are both extremely talented, bringing physical comedy, mime, tap dancing and character work into both shows. I look forward to what they will bring to their next.