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Fanny & Stella: The Shocking True Story - Above the Stag Theatre

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

FANNY & Stella: The Shocking True Story, a play written by Glenn Chandler with songs by Charles Miller, runs at Above the Stag Theatre from May 8 to June 2, 2019.

Roll up, roll up to the Bermondsey Working Men’s Club… in 1870. Come in to the warm, from those uptight, homophobic Victorian streets. Ernest Boulton and Frederick Park – better known and adored by their fans as Fanny and Stella – are here to perform for your delight and delectation, in their finest theatricality, highest camp and sense of play, to tell their own shocking stories, vaudeville style…

Theirs is an outrageous and ever-relevant tale of rising to fame and falling from grace, via a scandalous trial.

Real life historical figures (all but unknown to today’s audiences) Ernest Boulton and Frederick Park were arrested at The Strand Theatre in 1870 for cross-dressing, and appeared in court the following morning still in their evening gowns. Trialled for “homosexual offences” the jury acquitted the two trailblazers, deeming the whole episode farcical.

The world premiere of the play that celebrated Fanny and Stella’s epic rebellion in a world that was still shocked to glimpse the ankle of a lady, took place at Above The Stag in its previous, smaller Vauxhall home in 2015.

Now with the move to its larger theatre in June last year, the play is being revived once more and audiences will be treated to an in drag, music-hall style rendition of these events, and the years leading up to them, complete with period dress, innuendo aplenty, and themes that feel as pertinent today as in the nineteenth century – all interweaved with original songs by Charles Miller.

Playwright Glenn Chandler is best known as the creator and writer of Taggart, one of the world’s longest-running TV detective series, celebrated for its gritty portrayal of the mean streets of Glasgow. With a fascination for real-life crime and court tales, Chandler sees Fanny and Stella as underlooked early activists for gay rights, and wrote the play in tribute to their bravery and spirit of fun.

Highlighting internalised homophobia, parental rejection and the need to champion freedom of expression at any cost, Fanny and Stella’s fight is as touching and inspiring, as it is entertaining. The production is a thoroughly modern look at a rich historical moment, subtly pointing to the differences and similarities found in our own present.

Fanny & Stella is directed by Steven Dexter and performed by Tobias Charles (as William Frederick Park AKA Fanny), Kieran Parrott (Ernest Boulton AKA Stella), Christian Andrews (Lord Arthur Clinton), Tom Mann (Louis Charles Hurt), Mark Pearce (Mr Grimes) and Blair Robertson (John Stafford Fiske).

For more information or to book tickets, visit abovethestag.ticketsolve.com/shows/.

Also at Above the Stag Theatre: Boom Bang-a-Bang, Jonathan Harvey’s high-camp, farcical exploration of sexuality (until June 9, 2019).