Fanatical – The Musical
The Playground Theatre
Reviewed – 14th November 2018
“It all makes for a lively atmosphere, with a cast who seem to be having the time of their lives”
For the uninitiated, it’s worth swotting up before a visit to Fanatical. It deals tenderly with the worlds of cosplay, fandom and sci-fi; come prepared with your Lord of the Rings and Star Wars references brushed up. Be in no doubt: what you sign up for here is a heartfelt love letter to sci-fi and fandoms everywhere.
Fanatical is a musical set amidst the high pressure, high excitement atmosphere of a convention of sci-fi enthusiasts – in this case, ardent supporters of the (fictional, but incredibly fully-realised) world of space comic Angel 8. We too are immersed, brought along as newly adopted fans; gorgeously detailed comic art and digital projections of a really remarkable quality sweep us into the narrative.
A comic convention may seem an odd setting for a musical, but this high-energy cast make it all make sense. So high energy in fact that at times, in the relatively small confines of Latimer Road’s Playground Theatre, the volume and sheer vigour of the music felt somewhat overpowering. Audiences should be prepared for the double earnestness of musical theatre and cosplay (a fan-driven world where enthusiasts craft their own costumes) – indeed, kudos goes to those audience members in their own space-themed outfits.
It all makes for a lively atmosphere, with a cast who seem to be having the time of their lives. Especial note must go to Suanne Braun as Trix, who acts as a linchpin in both character and performance. Her laugh-out-loud rendition of ‘Any Moment Now’ was without question the highlight of the night, as Trix attempts seduction with Miranda-esque levels of awkwardness.
Writers Matt Board and Reina Hardy say in the programme that this show has been a long time in the making. It’s clear, with the attention to detail (our comic characters have animated avatars, theme music, life stories), that Fanatical is the result of a labour of love. Perhaps that love may have added to the occasional loss of discernment. The musical could be shorter and some songs, inevitably, are weaker. Overall there is certainly more filler than killer. Coming Up Next and Self-Aware are some of the toe-tappers, with the latter seeing Tim Rogers as Craig going in for some snarling judgement of the geeks. Similarly the lyrics to the excellent Nobody’s Watching, spat out with relish by Stephen Frost as frustrated writer Scott Furnish, are great fun. As ever, the bad guys get the best songs.
With less accomplished performers, this show might just tip into being an evening of self-indulgent geekery. Strong vocal and acting performances avoid this, and the cast’s abundant enthusiasm carries its audience irresistibly along.
Reviewed by Abi Davies
Photography by Scott Rylander
Fanatical – The Musical
The Playground Theatre until 8th December