Fine and Dandy
Reviewed – 26th February 2018
“a well matched and skilled ensemble who clearly enjoy the challenges presented by playing a huge range of character”
This wonderful tale of the adventures of Ernest Faigele Fine is a gender fluid delight, and should be prescribed for anyone who needs a joyous evening of laughter. Sue Frumin’s play began its life in 1999 as a one person show and has been developed with the Arcola Queer Collective into an energetic, hilarious romp.
The cast of ten almost all play multiple roles, and swap from one to the other with fast paced alacrity. They are a well matched and skilled ensemble who clearly enjoy the challenges presented by playing a huge range of characters that include a snake and God! Rach Skyer is so engaging as Ernest that the whole audience was rooting for them to find their way in life, to get to New York and become a great entertainer. To be truly Fine and Dandy.
There were some fabulous slapstick moments and a real poignancy, some villains and some heroes. And an audience that included quite a few reviewers roaring with laughter.
Jonathan Richardson’s direction is assured and has a lovely light touch. In the program notes they say ‘I like to make theatre which holds to the principle that a beautiful lie is far more important than the truth.’ They have certainly achieved that with this play. It has the lightness of a fairy tale and the energy of a farce, and is a celebration of Queerness that you could happily bring your children to.
The set is basic, with hanging curtains, trunks and a coffin forming most of it, and the many costumes are perfectly designed to allow super fast changes and support the characters they clothe. From the moment the audience enters, the atmosphere of a seemingly chaotic circus arriving in town is established, as characters flap about, argue, rearrange the ‘furniture’ and generally create the world of the play as people take their seats. Then the house lights go down and a genuinely mirthful and exuberant hour ensues. I was humming ‘Misery Farm’ all the way home.
I hope that this show has a life after its short run at the Arcola. It deserves to carry on and take the tale of ‘Ernest/Ernestine Faigele Fine, a singer of cheap ballads and weary tunes, inventor of the worst magic acts in history, a clog dancer of no particular skill and a wandering jew at the turn of the twentieth century’ to a wider audience.
Reviewed by Katre
Photography by Ali Wright
Fine and Dandy
Arcola Theatre until 2nd March