Fun Home is a beautiful, bruising theatrical experience that will make you laugh, weep and feel seen
Why the UK premiere of this award-winning lesbian musical is essential viewing
Kaisa Hammarlund as Alison and Brooke Haynes as Small Alison
Everyone agrees that Fun Home is awesome, from the Tony judges who awarded it best Broadway musical in 2015 to the entranced London audience who gave it a rapturous standing O last night. But if, like me, you're a queer woman starved of representation, Fun Home is more than just an expertly executed 100-minute slice of theatrical entertainment. It’s pure magic.
This rare gem from Jeanine Tesori and Lisa Kron is based on the graphic memoir by bonafide dykon Alison Bechdel, who also created cult must-read comic strip, Dykes To Watch Out For. It's thrilling to see such an intimate, unapologetically queer story brought to life with a stellar cast, sweeping orchestral score and just so much heart. Kaisa Hammarlund is captivating as 43-year-old lesbian cartoonist Alison, piecing together fragmented memories from her youth in an effort to make sense of the past and in particular, her relationship with her dad, a closeted gay man who, four months after his daughter came out to him, stepped out in front of oncoming traffic and killed himself.
In addition to her adult incarnation, we meet Small Alison (Brooke Haynes), a tomboy with an abhorrence for party dresses and a magnetic pull towards a crew-cutted butch delivery woman (listen out for rousing lezzy anthem Ring Of Keys), and Medium Alison (Eleanor Kane), an adorably awkward teenager hilariously grappling with nerves, trying to pluck up the courage to knock on the door of her college's Gay Union.
Eleanor Kane as Medium Alison and Cherrelle Skeete as Joan, photo by Marc Brenner
Equally delightful is the scene when Medium Alison, euphoric from her first time with another woman, declares (in song, naturally), “I’m changing my major to sex with Joan, with a minor in kissing Joan!” Her relationship with her college girlfriend, played with effortless swagger and charisma by Cherrelle Skeete, feels gorgeous and tender and familiar.
But there are also moments of excruciating pain, particularly in the rich performances of Alison's parents. Jenna Russell is quietly brilliant as Helen, a woman who stayed with a husband who could never desire her because she thought "as a wife" she was meant to. Her rendition of Days And Days swells with the heavy regret of a life not truly lived, and seeing Zubin Varla's Bruce descend into despair because of his forbidden sexuality is a sucker punch to your queer soul.
Every scene in this play pulsates with yearning. The yearning for sex, for answers, for just one more chance at that last conversation. It's a beautiful and bruising and vital piece of theatre. And it's super fucking gay in the best possible way, so do yourself a favour and go and see it.
Fun Home is on at London's Young Vic until 1 September 2018. Book your ticket at youngvic.org.
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