Caz and Britney – the Scouse scally alter egos of city actresses Gillian Hardie and Keddy Sutton – may have started as a joke, but their second full length show has really taken the act to another level. Homotopia commission Mis Les featured their trademark musical theatre parodies and so much more besides.
The duo began life on variety bills with a couple of takes on songs from Chicago, restyled in a Liverpool setting – all rollers, fake Uggs and Primark bags. This went on to become the full-length Scottie Road the Musical, a show of first class silliness that included more show tunes and even roped in Eithne Brown.
Mis Les was a much tighter show and seemed a lot more structured and organised than Scottie Road, bursting with improv, songs, sketches and satire. It began with our heroines not speaking, having had an on-stage bust up auditioning for the X Factor. As they rekindled their friendship, a lot of their familiar gags came into play, so there was certainly a lot to enjoy if you were already familiar with the act.
Look Down, the dramatic opener to Les Miserables, became an anthem to the tensions of the bingo hall. Empty Chairs at Empty Tables was turned into a lament to allen keys and flat pack furniture (IKEA chairs, IKEA tables, natch). Musical parodies are a bugger to get right – there’s hardly anything more uncomfortable, entertainment-wise, than having to sit through rubbish ones – and this is where Sutton and Hardie deserve real praise. Their comic timing and way with words is impeccable, and on the extreme off-chance they don’t make you howl with laughter, their writing is undeniably clever, with not a single forced rhyme or shoehorned gag to be found.
This time, they interspersed this with knowing, meta little sketches that showcased their versatility – a little indulgent, maybe, but forgivable. A brawl with a bingo dabber at the Mecca resulted in Lady Macbeth-style dramatics, their satire of reality TV and X Factor could have seemed old hat, but did not.
Then of course, there was the matter of putting the lez into Mis Les. Caz and Britney recalled their time in prison – another throwback to the first show – which also included their version of I Dreamed a Dream. Their experiences behind bars (the butch ones come at night) eventually made them realise they must be gay, which moved the show into new territory indeed. A combination of Scouse in-jokes, musical parody, lesbian leads and an entire segment set in fabled gay pub the Lisbon made this a ridiculously niche, unusual show with probably little chance of life outside Liverpool or Homotopia; but for those open to the ideas within, Mis Les was a riot from start to finish.
Not only that but it is brilliant to see such a strong female show packing in audiences and making gay women the focus. It’s arguable you don’t realise how rare that is until it’s there, larger than life in front of you. Sutton and Hardie excel in everything they bring to the table in Mis Les, with brilliant vocals and enviable comic chops. Liverpool’s answer to French and Saunders, perhaps?
Catch them again when Scottie Road the Musical returns to the Unity after Christmas.