Tag Archives: Kaisa Hammarlund



Charing Cross Theatre



Charing Cross Theatre

Reviewed – 21st January 2019



“enjoyable at times but requires more attentive storytelling”


A competent and confident cast just about save this somewhat tepid yet redemptive road-trip musical. Jeanine Tesori’s Southern States inspired score, expertly mixing country, blues rock ‘n’ roll and gospel influences, is ultimately let down by a middling script and unfocused lyrics.

Violet (Kaisa Hammarlund) sets out on a Greyhound bus from backwoods Spruce Pine, North Carolina, to Tulsa, hoping to get her facial scar ‘healed’ by a well-known tele-preacher (Kenneth Avery-Clark). An accident with a loose axe head in childhood left Violet both physically and emotionally scarred, meaning relationships formed along the way with soldiers Monty (Matthew Harvey) and Flick (Jay Marsh) are fraught and conflicted. We can all guess where the story goes from here.

Sadly, it is Violet’s story that brings this production down. Despite being just over twenty years old, the gender politics of this musical feel dated and discomforting. Beauty is found, of course, within – but also with a little help from a heterosexual male telling you you’re beautiful. Violet’s experiences of rejection are compared with Flick’s as a racially segregated black male. Furthermore, we never quite get a chance to learn why we should care about Violet’s story. We haven’t learnt anything new about impossible standards of beauty, nor about mid-sixties American culture. Why revive this now?

The musical numbers are varied and enjoyable, but forgettable. “Raise Me Up”, a heartfelt gospel tune belted out by Lula (Simbi Akande), stands out, and yet even this is immediately reduced to a gag about Clark’s preacher’s incorrigibly fake routine. Shuntaro Fujita’s direction is often awkward, with actors left at times to simply stand and sing at each other. Fujita does manage to blend Violet’s childhood memories into the present-day action well. These moments, in fact, prove some of the most effective parts of the production, giving Violet’s beleaguered character some crucial context.

Despite reuniting some of the artistic talent behind last year’s outstanding ‘Fun Home’, this musical lacks the emotional turbulence, coherence and charm of that production. ‘Violet’ is certainly enjoyable at times but requires more attentive storytelling and better lyrics if it wishes to set its sights on the West End.


Reviewed by Joseph Prestwich

Photography by Scott Rylander



Charing Cross Theatre until 6th April


Previously reviewed at this venue:
Harold and Maude | ★★★★ | February 2018
It Happened in Key West | ★★ | July 2018
Mythic | ★★★★ | October 2018


Click here to see more of our latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com


Fun Home – 5 Stars


Fun Home

Young Vic

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


Fun Home

Young Vic until 1st September


Previously reviewed at this venue
How to win Against History | ★★★★ | December 2017


Click here to see more of our latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com