When I went: 16 July 2018
Location: Young Vic, London
Performers: Kaisa Hammarlund (adult Alison Bechdel), Eleanor Kane (medium Alison), Jenna Russell (Helen Bechdel / Alison’s mother), Ashley Samuels (Roy / Mark / Pete / Bobby / Jeremy), Cherrelle Skeete (Joan), Zubin Varla (Bruce Bechdel / Alison’s dad), Brooke Haynes (young Alison), Eddie Martin (John Bechdel), Charlie McLellan (Christian Bechdel), Ramsay Robertson (alternate John Bechdel), Archie Smith (alternate Christian Bechdel), Harriet Turnbull (alternate young Alison)
Creative team: Sam Gold (director), Danny Mefford (choreographer), David Zinn (set and costume design), Nigel Lilley (musical director), Jeanine Tesori (music), Lisa Kron (book and lyrics), Alison Bechdel (graphic novel)
Approximate price: £50
Special points: Basis on graphic novel
Best bit: Come to the Fun Home
If I could change one thing: Slightly more memorable songs
Fun Home, named because of the setting in a funeral home, is an unusual musical because of its basis on a graphic novel by Alison Bechdel (of the famous ‘Bechdel test’ for films). It also features three incarnations of the same character (young, medium and adult Alison) but jumps around in time, giving it a similar feeling to The Last Five Years, where you know what is going to happen at the end after the first scene or so. This all works smoothly because the key characters (Alison and her dad Bruce) are appealing and you root for them.
The subject matter is pretty emotional and poignant, so the lighter songs are necessary to stop the musical feeling too heavy; Come to the Fun Home and Changing My Major are particular highlights. Edges of the World, sung by Bruce before his death, reminded me of Javert’s Suicide in Les Miserables in its feeling of dark inevitability.
I think that this musical is destined for a transfer to the West End pretty soon – the great material was held up by an equally great cast, including the child actors. I had previously seen Jenna Russell (who played Helen, Alison’s mother) as the Baker’s Wife in Into the Woods, and Cherrelle Skeete (who played medium Alison’s girlfriend Joan) as Rose Granger-Weasley / Young Hermione in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, and they both pulled off these roles beautifully.
Eleanor Kane as ‘medium Alison’ was gorgeously awkward and sweet and Zubin Varla was brilliant throughout – you always felt that he was slightly on the edge of a breakdown.