Tag Archives: Glenn Chandler

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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Review of Lord Dismiss Us – 3 Stars

Dismiss

Lord Dismiss Us

Above the Stag

Reviewed – 26th October 2017

⭐️⭐️⭐️

 

“has a great deal of brio and charm … though doesn’t quite escape the strictures of its time”

 

Michael Campbell’s novel, Lord Dismiss Us, adapted for the stage this year by Glenn Chandler, was published 50 years ago in 1967, the same year that the Wolfenden report took the first steps toward the decriminalisation of homosexuality. As a longstanding London LGBT theatre, Above the Stag is hosting the show, produced by Boys of the Empire Productions,  in response to this milestone event.

David Shields’ design expertly transformed this Vauxhall railway arch into a boys’ public school, and it worked well for the audience to arrive into an atmosphere of schoolboy tomfoolery, as too did the moments in which, under the aegis of David Mullen’s Headmaster, we were transformed into fellow pupils, attending school assembly. The plot lines are familiar territory to a 21st century audience – stolen moments of forbidden love, the emergence of the creative self – and many of the characters too have resurfaced in different guises over the past 50 years, from the compassionate, culturally alive teacher Eric Ashley, to the camp clergyman Reverend Starr. As a result, it is a difficult task for a contemporary production to convey the very real risks present to these men in the late 60s – both those emerging into their adult lives as well as their teachers and mentors – and thus the show romped along with gusto, but lacked the emotional gravitas which could have led to a more intense theatrical experience.

There was some terrific work from Lewis Allcock as the beleaguered Eric Ashley; his performance provided moments of true tenderness and passion and was the beating heart of the show. David Mullen’s Reverend too was truly touching at times, although occasionally he lost veracity and veered towards caricature, perhaps as a result of Mullen’s double role, and his need to define the Reverend against the humourless Scottish Head. Joshua Oakes-Rogers was convincing as Terry Carleton, as was Joe Bence as Nicholas Allen, the object of his affections, but Carleton’s journey from louche poseur to a young writer in love could have been explored further, and this reviewer would have liked the perpetually-smiling Nicky to have been a little more pole-axed by his final kiss. Matthew McCallion’s wonderful breakout moment in the play-within-a-play provided a welcome counterpoint, and special mention too must go to Jonathan Blaydon for his excellent Peter Naylor, whose playful physicality was a joy to watch.

Julie Teal, as Cecilia Crabtree, had the unenviable task of putting light and shade into a wholly unsympathetic and somewhat underwritten character; despite some deft touches of characterisation, Cecilia remained a product of the time in which she came into being. Indeed, the treatment of women in the play – other than Cecilia we don’t see any, and we are merely given some unflattering imitations of girls from the visiting girls’ school – is one way in which the piece has dated detrimentally.

Ultimately, though this production has a great deal of brio and charm, Lord Dismiss Us doesn’t quite escape the strictures of its time, and therefore remains an entertaining evening, rather than an exciting one.

 

Reviewed by Rebecca Crankshaw

Photography by PBG Studios

 

Above The Stag Theatre

 

LORD DISMISS US

is at Above the Stag until 19th November

 

 

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