Tuesday, 11 August 2020

REVIEW: Fanny and Stella at The Garden Theatre at The Eagle

This is my first trip to the theatre since everything shut down in March and what a pleasant experience it was. My first time visiting the Eagle in Vauxhall and I was greeted with politeness and exceptional hospitality by the staff. They are doing everything they can to create a space that is safe but still enjoyable and comfortable for all. The show itself is socially distanced both in the audience and onstage, with a few subtle jokes in the piece addressing it! But to tell you the truth, you wouldn’t even notice. Which is a huge credit to the creators. 

The setting is the beer garden of the pub and whilst this may seem a little weird, its dressed like the best outdoor fringe venue you’ll ever experience. As far as I’m aware, an outdoor venue like this has never been done and this is a prime example of how to do to it well and I hope this opens doors for the future as to what we could possibly see in times to come on the fringe scene. 

Fanny and Stella tells the story of Ernest Boulton and Frederick William Park, they were two young men who, in 1871, were put on trial in London for dressing as women. A new piece by Glenn Chandler and Charles Miller, brought to the stage by Peter Bull for LAMBCO productions and directed by Steven Dexter, this classic Victorian-Vaudeville style musical is truly wonderful and Dexter has done a brilliant job at transforming this pub beer garden into a pretty fringe theatre. With musical staging by Nick Winston, his work is almost like the sprinkles on top of the cake. It adds flair and campness that this piece thrives on. 

Whilst it may not be the most memorable of pieces, its a delightful show and I can see it certainly has a future. The music itself is well written but it does lack those memorable songs that you hum when leaving the theatre. The placement of the songs within the piece is great and the correlation between the book, music and direction really compliment each other. 

This piece is a glorious, uplifting new musical with heart. At its core, we are taught through the piece not only about the history of Drag and the acceptance of homosexuality in our countries past but also the homophobia within the LGBTQ+ community that still exists today. The acceptance of others and how we treat each other is a prime theme here and in our current times is certainly a message that can be brought into our modern world. 

The cast are a wonderful ensemble and together really do pull off this challenging piece. From flipping characters to quick costume changes, it's seamless and creates a relaxing atmosphere for the audience, even in this uncomfortable weather! 

Lead by Kane Verrall and Jed Berry as Fanny and Stella, they are showcased so well in this show. Both have such popping and bright personalities in the parts and also provide some beautiful, effortless vocals. I wish we were shown more of the relationship between the two characters, showing a more vulnerable side to them both in each other's companies would have balanced the relationship so well, we see their banter but are lacking in their softer sides with one another. 

Berry and Verrall are joined by Kurt Kansley (Lord Arthur Clinton), Alex Lodge (Louis Charles Hurt), Mark Pearce (Mr Grimes) and Joaquin Pedro Valdes (John Safford Fiske). All round up this ensemble in such a wonderful way, they complement each other greatly and you know you’re in good hands as an audience. 

The show as a whole is really delightful, although it may not be groundbreaking as a piece it will certainly go down in the history books as starting a new movement in how we started to integrate theatre back into our lives. 

For the ticket price, you really can’t beat it. Make sure you head down to the Garden Theatre at The Eagle in Vauxhall, the more support we show these people and applaud what they’re doing means we’ll hopefully be moving in the right direction. Even if the government are not attempting to support us. 

Review by Mark Swale 

Rating: ★★★★ 

Price of Ticket: £16.00 + booking fee
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