Reviewed – 30th June 2018
“David Zinn’s design is spectacular, and the breathtaking reveal (I won’t say too much) is the icing on an already many-tiered cake”
Alison is a gay graphic novelist and, now in her 40s, she’s sifting through her memories, reflecting on her childhood growing up in a funeral home (or fun home for short), her coming out, her relationship with her father and his subsequent suicide. Alison never liked wearing dresses and her father never liked the way she drew and maybe they are worlds apart or maybe they are more similar than they ever knew.
Alison Bechdel’s acclaimed graphic novel, an autobiographical tragicomedy, has been adapted for the stage by Jeanine Tesori (music) and Lisa Kron (book and lyrics) and what an adaptation it is. ‘Fun Home’ won five Tony’s on Broadway where it premiered in 2015, and it’s very obvious why. This is an overwhelmingly outstanding piece of theatre, an exemplar of queer representation onstage, studded with breathtaking performances.
There isn’t a weak link across the cast. Our three Alison’s, child (Harriet Turnbull alternating with Brooke Haynes), university student (Eleanor Kane), and reflecting forty three year old (Kaisa Hammarlund), meld naturally into each other. Turnbull is bright and honest onstage and the song ‘Ring of Keys’ is a particularly moving and relatable moment. Kane’s Alison is equally fantastic, exploding into her sexuality at university, signing up to organise protests and falling in love with the wonderfully balanced Joan, played faultlessly by Cherrelle Skeete. Hammarlund’s older Alison takes us with her on this journey of remembering, watching over her life and drawing its pieces back together, strong and quietly moving. Zubin Varla is Bruce, Alison’s father, volatile and vibrant and brooding. Jenna Russell as Bruce’s defeated wife, Helen, is worn down, exhausted and deeply moving in her brief moments of openness.
David Zinn’s design is spectacular, and the breathtaking reveal (I won’t say too much) is the icing on an already many-tiered cake.
Witty, playful, tender and moving all at once, the production is skillfully crafted so that these scenes exist alongside each other slipping between humour and gravity with ease and skill. Expect to cry. A lot. This is the best piece of theatre I have seen in sometime, an exemplar of queer theatre and musical theatre, and flawless across the board.
Reviewed by Amelia Brown
Photography by Marc Brenner
Young Vic until 1st September
Previously reviewed at this venue