Lacing dry, self-deprecating and perfectly-timed banter through their hilarious hour-long set, sisters Flo and Joan (aka Nicola and Rosie Dempsey) poke at the tender spots of modern life.

This award-winning English pair have been enjoying huge success across the globe, both on stage and in televised specials including Live at the Apollo.

The night’s shortest musical number was one dealing with the fact they don’t look like sisters. And it’s true – in appearance and temperament they seem chalk and cheese. But that’s part of the magic. Flo (Nicola), playing keyboards, is short, dark and serious, while Joan (Rosie), on vocals and percussion, is more exuberant, and together they create a harmony that extends beyond their voices. The sisters’ contrasting personalities blend to form a brilliant dynamic, perfectly pitched to illuminate both sides of every topic they tackle.

Launching into their performance with a deconstruction of what men on dating apps really mean when they say they’re seeking a partner with a “good personality”, Flo & Joan take us on a tour of what life is like for sisters tied together by both family and profession. Apparently, touring the world as a musical comedy duo is less glamour and more synched periods and panic attacks. The image of the pair sitting in a hotel room slicing a quiche with a credit card is just too hilariously specific to not be true.

Flo & Joan at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival. Photo: Claudio Raschella

The search for meaningful human connection, the longevity of regret and crippling insecurity, binge drinking, walking alone at night, ageing parents and the possibilities of changing your life with a haircut – it’s all fertile fodder for these “singing spinster sisters”.

But the clever, insightful and rapier-sharp lyrics are only part of the genius of this act. The banter interspersing songs is as witty as stand-up comedy, and as the act progresses, the sisters layer up their material, weaving the lyrics and repartee together to create a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.

Flo & Joan’s musical influences are as diverse as they are catchy.  Flitting between genres, the sisters morph effortlessly between Donna Summer-inspired disco to Old-English folk songs to Dolly Parton. Their finale was a highlight – a magnificent parody of Meatloaf’s “Bat Out of Hell” involving a witch riding a goose. Witty and infectious with the lyrics tying the whole set together, it was hard to believe the duo could pack so much material into 60 minutes.

Observational, self-deprecating and astute, this is comedy wrapped around hard kernels of truth. Fans of musical comedians such as Tim Minchin and Flight of the Conchords will find these sisters similarly delightful. Whether you appreciate musicianship, lyrics razor-sharp with insight or perfect comedic timing, Flo & Joan check all the boxes.

Flo & Joan: Now Playing is at the Space Theatre until June 15 as part of the 2024 Adelaide Cabaret Festival, which continues until June 22.

Read more Cabaret Festival coverage here.

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