Theatre Review: Fanny And Stella Brings Victorian Crossdressing Celebrities To Life

Fanny And Stella: The Shocking True Story, Above The Stag ★★★★☆

By Mike C
Theatre Review: Fanny And Stella Brings Victorian Crossdressing Celebrities To Life Fanny And Stella: The Shocking True Story, Above The Stag 4
Photo: PBG Studios

Real life crossdressing celebs Boulton and Park were outrageous young men who minced their way through Victorian London causing a stir wherever they went. And though their voices could probably have stripped paint from front doors at 50 paces, the winning mix of songs and camp repartee has you rooting for them from the start. After all, who wouldn't warm to a bit of Sodomy on the Strand?

Fanny and Stella is brim full of cheerful songs and bum jokes, as well as pathos, exhibited by the characters' firm belief the world is changing with them, (spoiler alert: it wasn't). Inevitably, the police and press try to bring them down, and the fast-paced court battle is given greater room to breathe thanks to Above The Stag's commodious new premises on the Albert Embankment.

For this very quick revival, Tobias Charles and Kieran Parrott bring our two rouged and pancaked own, special creations alive, cackling with bitchy put-downs and queeny pouts. And with engaging performances all round (special notes to Mark Pearce's multi-faceted villains, and Christian Andrews as chinless aristo and young David Cameron lookalike Lord Arthur Clinton) it blends joy and sadness skilfully, bravely banishing any trace of self-pity.

That their tale is billed as 'shocking', and that it needs to be remarked in this day and age, shows both how far we've come, and what a long way we've still to go. Friday 17 May is International Day Against Homophobia (and Bi and Transphobia). Why not mark it with a trip to Vauxhall with our dear ladies?

Fanny and Stella: The Shocking True Story, Above The Stag Theatre, Albert Embankment, SE1 7TP, £25. Until 2 June

Last Updated 13 May 2019