Fanny & Stella at The Eagle
Fanny & Stella is based on true events and real characters and takes the audience back to 1871 when homosexual relationships were against the law but this didn’t stop Earnest Boulton and Fredrick William Park from dressing up as Stella and Fanny both on and off stage and in Stella’s case becomming Lord Arthur Clinton’s ‘wife.’ They were put on trial for this and Fanny & Stella follows the journey leading up to the trial and the trial itself.
The show is told very much in the style of a Victorian Music Hall. It is raucous with songs about sodomy and contains a scene involving a rectal examination by a Doctor but it is all in keeping with the style of the show and never pushes it too far and sits on the right side of humour.
If, like me the mere mention of music halls normally sends you running for the hills, please don’t let my description put you off. The book by Glenn Chandler, was very engaging and despite it being set 150 years ago the show felt relevant. It not only focused on the first baby steps towards equality with Fanny and Stella being trailblazers of their time. It also looked at sensationalism in the tabloid press. Fanny and Stella combined this feeling with the costumes as well, with a steampunk vibe to them, paying homage to the corsets, petticoats and tail jackets of the time but with a modern day twist to them, with black skinny jeans or bright pink eye makeup and guyliner.
My small niggle about the show would be is that it is called Fanny & Stella and they refer to each other as sisters but the audience simply has to take this on trust and more time is spent developing Stella’s romantic relationships than their friendship.
The cast were lead by Jed Berry as Stella and Kane Verrall as Fanny. With Berry as Stella you easily believed that she had men falling at her well heeled feet. Berry captured my attention from the opening number and in particular when they were dancing it was hard to tear my eyes away from them. Verrall, by the nature of how Fanny is written, is a slightly more subtle character (although most people next to Stella would seem subtle) but Verrall really succeeded in getting across depth to the part, the scene between Fanny and Lord Arthur Clinton was a prime example.
The rest of the cast were equally as engaging and between them played numerous parts including Stella’s love interests, journalists, Fanny’s father and more. There are some tender moments between Berry and Alex Lodge as Louis Charles Hunt as Stella’s childhood sweetheart. Scenes like this help drive home the serious message of the show especially when juxtaposed with some of the music hall style numbers.
Overall Fanny & Stella is a fun night out at the theatre with a laugh out loud show, underlining what is actually a serious message, combined with a talented cast and the clear joy from everyone that we are back watching live theatre it is worth getting yourself and your bubble to Vauxhall.
Whilst not above the show itself I thought I would touch on what was done in relation to social distancing. They had a wide range of measures in place including – temperature checks on the way in, hand sanitizer on the way in, registration for track and trace, being shown to your table in the pub whilst waiting for the theatre doors to open, seated in your bubbles, face masks worn throughout the show, a laminated cast list so they could clean it, waiving a flag if you wanted a drink whist seated in the theatre to avoid having to pass others and finally at the end of the show staggered exits to ensure there was space between people. All in all I must say I was very impressed with the steps they took and felt very safe whilst there!
Fanny & Stella is running until 28th August at The Eagle in Vauxhall. Tickets can be purchased here.