Tag Archives: Emily Morris

Fanny and Stella

Fanny and Stella: The Shocking True Story
★★★★

Above the Stag

Fanny and Stella

Fanny and Stella: The Shocking True Story

Above The Stag

Reviewed – 10th May 2019

★★★★

 

“a fantastic romp through the Victorian world, in all its pomposity, hypocrisy and raw authenticity”

 

From the moment we enter the theatre we know we are in for a night of Victorian entertainment – part musical, part pantomime, part courtroom drama. Glenn Chandler’s ‘Fanny & Stella’ transports us, via Bermondsey Working Men’s Club, to the drama of a pair who describe themselves as ‘he-she ladies’. It is a fantastic romp through the Victorian world, in all its pomposity, hypocrisy and raw authenticity.

The drama takes them through their turbulent love life, through to their time of arrest and trial for dressing as women and ‘conspiring and inciting persons to commit an unnatural offence’. Much of the action is beautifully portrayed through the songs, with standout performances from Tobias Charles as Fanny, and Kieran Parrott as Stella. The music underscores the action, telling the story and giving us an insight into the joys and sufferings of the characters. Chandler’s lyrics are witty and in some cases vulgar. The formal music hall tunes (score by Charles Miller), with four part harmonies are punctured with risqué references, much to the amusement of the audience.

The set equally plays its part, with two closets involved. It is no coincidence that entrances and exits are made through these – part of director Steven Dexter’s nimble work in bringing out moments of commentary alongside the farce. Sometimes however some parts lacked subtlety, Fanny and Stella recount their own tale in a deliberately elaborate manner, yet at points this staging of their story feels over-egged.

This is a minor quibble. There is potential for a play like this to be a heavy-handed vehicle to comment on today’s gender and sexual politics. However, Charles and Parrott allow the characters to speak for themselves and for the story to breath. In this ambitious play it is left to us to make the connections, and draw our own conclusions, and it’s all the better for it.

As an audience, we are sucked into the old forms of melodrama and music hall, with top hats and jazz hands galore. What makes this show special is that it has a twist in the tail. In the end, it is the clever knowing quality of the songs that really stand out creating a new, more relevant form of pantomime.

 

Reviewed by Emily Morris

 

Fanny and Stella

Fanny and Stella: The Shocking True Story

Above the Stag until 2nd June

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
Title Of Show | ★★★★ | February 2019
Goodbye Norma Jeane | ★★ | March 2019
Romance Romance | ★★★★ | March 2019
Queereteria TV | ★★ | April 2019

 

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