Fanny and Stella at the Garden Theatre
The Garden Theatre’s new upbeat, comedic outdoor musical Fanny and Stella ushers in a new era of socially distanced live performances, bringing light-hearted fun and audience interaction back to the stage after these long months in lockdown. Set in 1870, the show follows two female impersonators accused of sodomy in a high-energy, funny yet timely tale.
This hilarious linear production, based on a true story, is presented as a play within a play and details one of the key moments in gay history. We begin with theatre owner Mr Grimes (Mark Pearce) welcoming the audience and introducing a new performance by female impersonators Fanny (Kane Verrall) and Stella (Jed Berry), who go on to re-enact their personal accounts, recounting their struggles with unjust laws, prejudices against drag and sexual orientation and traditionalist ideals of masculinity. Throughout the production, we witness strained parental relationships and complicated love triangles, all tied together with cheeky songs and high-calibre choreography.
Fanny and Stella is first and foremost a show designed for pure, light-hearted entertainment, focusing on comedy above all else. With continuous witty lyrics, heightened stereotypical characters, audience banter and even a few Monty Python references, the primary concern is crafting a fun experience for the crowd. One cannot help but fall in love with the characters and be compelled by the humorous Victorian world. However, the constant jokes sometimes stand in the story’s way, distracting from the production’s larger narrative.
The connection between characters lacks intensity, and the script at points fails to explore the emotional gravity of pivotal moments presented in the protagonists’ personal relationships. The plot is often overshadowed by the show’s true strengths: energetic dance numbers and comedic acting. However, despite these occasional lapses in narrative, one cannot help but root for all characters and be engaged throughout the performance.
With high-octane, enduring music hall songs and consistent grade-A performances from the company and music director Aaron Clingham, it’s impossible not to be charmed by Fanny and Stella.
Photo: Alex Hinson
Fanny and Stella is at the Garden Theatre from 3rd August until 28th August 2020. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.