It’s been 146 days since I last step foot in a theatre and oh my goodness, does it feel good to be back.
It’s hot, so very hot. I find myself bumbling through the door of an exceptionally airconned pub in the heart of Vauxhall. The Eagle has birthed a radiantly intimate garden theatre that I have no doubt will become increasingly popular over time. Minus the huge orange spotlight in the sky causing me to sweat, I was comfortable from start to finish and I was delighted to see COVID-19 procedures being taken seriously at every point. From the serving of drinks to the ‘single’ and ‘bubble’ seating arrangements, a special mention must go to the venue and producers LAMBO Productions.
Glenn Chandler and Steven Dexters production tells the story of Ernest ‘Stella’ Boulton (Jed Berry) and Frederik William ‘Fanny’ Park (Kane Verrall); two larger than life characters navigating their way through Victorian London whilst identifying as woman and dressing in drag. Fanny and Stella were both arrested in 1871 when both were picked up by the police for attending a production at The Strand Theatre while dressed in their drag attire and we see their story played out infront of us. The duo are trouncing up and down the country performing one-night only performances and here they are, in front of our intimate-audience in Vauxhall.
I don’t want to spoil the charming story of sass, sequins and sodomy but I will tell you this: it is hilariously bonkers. Utterly bonkers, subtly sweet and brilliantly nuanced. Fanny and Stella plied their trade performing in amatuer theatrical performances but this is far removed from those roots, and any notion of the word amateur is absent.
The company is exceptional at battling the noisy elements and remains pitch perfect throughout. Jed Berry and Kane Verrall are exceptional as Fanny and Stella and are supported fantastically by Kurt Kansley, Alex Lodge, Jaoquin Pedro Valdes and Mark Pearce, whom deserve a special mention for an exceptional range of characters ranging from a Mrs Doubtfire-esque Scottish landlady to a bumbling Scouse maid. This stripped back 90-minute musical bursts at the seams with energetic characters, brilliant performances and chaotic music hall inspired tunes, from ‘Sodomy on The Strand’ to ‘My Mother, Aaron Clingham’s musical direction enables each performer to bounce around the intimate garden with great aplomb, combatting the noise of the bustling city surrounding them.
Sexy, sassy and slick, Fanny and Stella is the pitch-perfect production to usher in a new dawn of live performance. It would be criminal to miss it.
Fanny and Stella is playing at the Garden Theatre at The Eagle until the 4th September. For tickets, follow the link: https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/fannyandstellamusical
Photo by Alex Hinson