Tag Archives: Steven Dexter

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

 

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

 

Romance Romance

Romance Romance
★★★★

Above the Stag

Romance Romance

Romance Romance

Above the Stag

Reviewed – 14th March 2019

★★★★

 

“this musical packed as much energy as any West End show I’ve attended”

 

In the heart of Vauxhall, Above the Stag Theatre has established itself as the only professional LGBT+ theatre in the UK with Artistic Director Peter Bull introducing some exciting productions. Romance Romance is a revival of the 1980’s Broadway original, with book and lyrics by Barry Harman and music by Keith Herrmann. Marketed as a reimagining told through the exploration of gay attraction and relationships, this two-act musical offers two very different stories both connected by the theme of love. Act One, The Little Comedy, is set in 19th Century Vienna and provides a light-hearted, farcical story of two people who upon adopting new personas fall in love. Act Two jumps forward to a contemporary setting in The Hamptons for Summer Share, which explores the complexities of love through the possibility of an affair.

First and foremost for a small production this musical packed as much energy as any West End show I’ve attended. The driving force behind this was the cast of just four performers (Ryan Anderson, Jordan Lee Davies, Alex Lodge, and Blair Robertson) who each threw themselves into this production heart and soul. Powerful performances from all but notably Ryan Anderson who brought the house down with his solo number ‘How did I end up Here?’ Some fantastic casting as the dynamic between the four was electric, and by the end of Act Two, the idea of this being a reimagining as a means to explore gay attraction is so far out of the picture, it was as if it was meant to have been written this way. Act Two really stood out because of its exploration of love, emotion and the complexities of relationships offering something we can all connect to regardless of your sexual orientation.

The direction (Steven Dexter with Summer Strallen as associate director) ensured the absolute most was made of all available space which doubled the size of the production as it burst out from every part of the stage. David Shields’ smart design allowed for the set to be transformed in front of our eyes, transporting us from Vienna to The Hamptons in a blink of an eye. Live music filled the room from upstage where the band sat playing for all to see, emphasising just how much can be achieved in a studio space. The lighting design (Jack Weir) added another layer which allowed for us to be transformed from the character’s private thoughts to new locations. The production made the most of all it had and then some.

Overall this musical was very sharp and full of life. My only wish is that it could be realised on a bigger scale as it has so much to offer. Act One offers you fun, songs, silliness and dance with Act Two bringing the heart and soul; a musical of two very different halves but with something for everything!

 

Reviewed by Lucy Bennett

Photography by PBG Studios

 


Romance Romance

Above the Stag until 6th April

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
[Title Of Show] | ★★★★ | February 2019

 

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