Fun Home at the Young Vic: darkly funny lesbian musical makes groundbreaking debut ★★★★★
The UK debut of an iconic musical about funeral homes, lesbianism and destructive family secrets is the must-see show of this summer.
Fun Home is the musical adaptation of the semi-autobiographical comic by openly gay author Alison Bechdel.
Using portrayals of Alison at three different ages, the musical explores her childhood as well as her experiences coming out as gay as a teen contrasted with the self-destruction of her closeted gay father.
The audience watches on as an adult Alison – played by the uncannily Bechdel-like Kaisa Hammarlund – remembers key moments in her life, exploring the parallels between her and her father before the production thunders to a poignant end.
The sensational production jumps between the three versions of Alison at different ages and progressively becomes more emotionally intense as the depth of her father’s self-destruction becomes apparent.
The musical does the iconic source material a great credit, seamlessly flitting between sober moments and bursts of erratic intensity that is carried off perfectly by the talented cast and enchanting score.
Although much of the production takes place in and around the “fun home” – the youngest Alison’s tongue-in-cheek term for the family funeral home – the musical maintains a morbid sense of humour for the majority of the 100 minute run time.
The core strength of the Young Vic production lies in the immensely talented cast of Alisons, who each deliver emotional yet frequently hilarious performances despite the morbid surroundings and topics.
Eleanor Kane’s enthusiastic portrayal of the teenage Alison will resonate with many LGBT members of the audience, successfully balancing the trepidation and excitement of coming out in a heartwrenching performance.
Zubin Varla also gives an impassioned performance as the obsessive and closeted father that brilliantly compliments the cast of Alisons, particularly the smallest Alison played by Brooke Haynes at the press night.
Although the songs are typically not the catchy sing-a-long tunes many audiences may be used to, Fun Home stands up against the long-established musicals that dominate the West End.
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The musical performances by the cast are remarkable, bringing Jeanine Tesori’s score to life in a way that is amplified by the relatively small size and intimacy of the theatre.
Fun Home is a bold production, and the critically acclaimed Young Vic also lives up to the challenge with the technically perfect staging that compliments without overshadowing the performances.
The Broadway opening of Fun Home in 2015 was given five Tony Awards, and this UK debut truly deserves similar praise.
Fun Home plays at the Young Vic until September 1.