Left – The Topp Twins. Photo – Sally Tagg
Not familiar with the Topp Twins? Neither was I a couple of years ago, until I watched their documentary film, The Topp Twins: Untouchable Girls. I made myself a promise that, the next time they were in town, I would move heavens and earth to go see them live. Heavens and earth moved, I had my wish fulfilled.
New Zealand’s national treasures, folk and country music singing activists and identical twin sisters, Jools and Lynda Topp have been performing together for over 30 years. Born in the country, tending to farm animals and leading a true farmer’s life, the sisters started out as country singers, and eventually, due to their incredible sense of humour, they evolved into comedy.
In the late 1990s, the Topp Twins had their own variety TV show, which showcased a cast of New Zealand stereotype characters among them, the Bowling Ladies, Camp Mother & Camp Leader, Ken & Ken and the Gingham Sisters, Belle & Belle, the country music and boot stompin’ loving ladies who opened the Topp Twins’ show at the Melbourne Arts Centre’s Fairfax Theatre last night.
From the moment the Topp Twins’ alter egos, Belle & Belle walked out on the stage, the audience began to laugh hysterically. Really... HYSTERICALLY! It was obvious that most of the people in attendance had seen the Topp sisters in action before, and that made me nervous. Was I going to enjoy their show, since I was not as familiar with their body of work, or would it all fly over my head? I resigned to appreciate the musical side of the show instead, and to keep an open mind about the rest. Two minutes into their performance, I found myself laughing just as hard as the rest of the attendees. They’re hilarious!
Jools plays the guitar and Lynda plays a mean harmonica, but both women sing beautifully. They performed country songs, paying homage to Dolly Parton and other country music icons, and topics. They managed to tug at heart strings evoking emotions – a song about New Zealand had a quarter of the audience sobbing due to homesickness for their country – and then they provoked tears of laughter with their vaudevillian styled act.
The Topp Twins, are silly, a bit slap-stickish but never sophmoric, low-brow or crude. Their music and humour transcend race, gender and age. I know that no one in the audience wanted the show to end. We were awarded an encore, after much cheering and clapping, and then, unfortunately, the Topp sisters really had to bid us goodbye. Walking out of the theatre, the audience’s excitement and positive energy was a-buzz, and promises of attending their next show could already be heard. Count me in.
Arts Centre Melbourne presents
The Topp Twins
Venue: Arts Centre Melbourne, Fairfax Studio
Dates: 22 – 24 May 2014
Tickets: $30 – $49