Fun Home at the Young Vic

I have learnt that if Tim offers me a spare ticket to a theatre show, I should say always say yes.  Back in April, he text me to ask if I was interested in seeing Fun Home, and I hadn’t actually heard of it before but when I realised it was at the Young Vic, I was super excited.  The only other play I have seen at the Young Vic was Yerma which was phenomenal, so if Fun Home was even 10% as good, then I was guaranteed a good evening.

Fortunately, it was fantastic (just ever so slightly less gut wrenching than Yerma).

Of course, I know who Alison Bechdel is, but I didn’t know much more about her than the basics – the comic book artist who has a very iconic test named after her.  Fun Home is a musical adaptation of Alison’s memoir, and if you had described to me the subject of her memoir, I would have told you that I couldn’t see how this could possibly make a good musical (spoiler alert – that is wrong).

In the present day, Alison is drawing her memoirs and thinking back to two periods of her life – as a little girl living in Pennsylvania with her parents and two brothers, and as a freshman at college when she comes out amidst the shocking revelation that her Father is also gay.

I fell in love with every Alison – they all played her so perfectly and it’s hard to pick my favourite.  I loved watching the older Alison watch the action on stage – picking apart her own memories with the benefit of hindsight, realising that her Dad wasn’t going out to get a newspaper or that he wasn’t just driving that boy home.  Kaisa Hammarlund is captivating.

Eleanor Kane plays Medium Alison with just the right amount of awkwardness and naivety, falling in love with her first girlfriend and coming to terms with her Father’s sexuality at the same time as figuring out her own.  Her first night with Joan was so beautiful, and my heart was right there with her as she sung about wanting to change her major to Joan.

Our Small Alison was played by Harriet Turnbull who absolutely slayed me with one line in particular – “Do you feel my heart saying hi” from Ring of Keys sung with such sweetness and yearning.  Oh my gosh, I felt physically winded when I heard it!

There was a classic set trick which I won’t spoil as I think it’s more fun for the entire audience to gasp with delight when it’s revealed.  The crew should be very proud with what they have created.  The music was understated, but very in your face when it needed to be.  Everything just worked.  OK, so there wasn’t a happy ending, but sometimes you’re at a point in your life where a little sadness provides a bit of catharsis.

It’s on until September, so go see it!

We can’t all be first wave feminists

YermaI’ve deleted about five versions of this blog post because I just don’t know how to start it.  Yerma at the Young Vic has affected me so deeply, and I’ve been thinking about it constantly since seeing it on Friday.

I heard about it a couple of weeks ago – Husband flipped his laptop round to show me the Observer five star review and asked if I’d be interested to see it.  We checked to see if Tim wanted to go as well because it seemed like something he’d be interested in.  A few text messages later, we had three great seats booked.  Good thing too as it’s now sold out.

We ate at The Cut beforehand, where we saw a Musketeer, discussed beer, and panic ate a chocolate fondant (the last one was mainly me).  That’s the risk with pre-theatre dining.

Yerma is a 1934 Spanish play by Federico García Lorca about a women obsessed with her infertility.  Director Simon Stone has modernised it for the Young Vic, rewriting the titular character as a lifestyle blogger and transporting her to current day London.  Whilst it’s not a theme I can directly empathise with, Billie Piper took me along with her struggle.  It’s a story I’ve heard from friends, work colleagues, family – I can see how easily desperation could take hold, perhaps not to the same extremes but it felt very possible.  I didn’t read much about it beforehand, so the actual plot took me somewhere I wasn’t expecting it to – starting off hopeful and lighthearted, but ending so dark.

Seating at the Young Vic is different for every show, and for Yerma, the stage was in the middle of the theatre encased in a perspex box (our Musketeer was directly opposite us).  I love a clever set, and this is one of the most inspired I’ve seen.  The theatre is plunged into darkness at the end of each scene, and when the lights come up, it’s completely different – a change of clothes, entirely different furniture, a garden, a festival field.  There was such a wonderful dynamic physicality to the set and I could not get enough of being surprised.  And I loved how it isolated me – I almost forgot that Husband and Tim were sat next to me and I was able to completely lose myself to the play.

All this combined with the music and the overwhelming acting from every member of the cast made for an incredibly tense and often uncomfortably voyeuristic story.  As we gave our standing ovation, tears were streaming down my face and my entire being was zinging.  It left me so emotionally exhausted that I’ve only just about recovered after spending most of Saturday in a funk on the sofa.  I don’t know how any of the actors, especially Billie, managed to pick themselves up to accept the audience cheers at the end.

I really want to see it again from the other side of the cube – alas it’s not to be – but I feel incredibly fortunate to have seen this incarnation at least once.