THE FANNY HILL PROJECT
by Tess Seddon and Cheryl Gallacher.
Camden People’s Theatre 58-60 Hampstead Rd NW1 2PY To 25 October 2013.
Runs 1hr No interval.
Tickets: 0207 419 4841.
Review: Carole Woddis 25 October.
On the way to something good.
This second half of a double-bill in the ‘Calm Down, Dear’ festival of feminism takes apart an old classic, refashioning it for a new age.
John Cleland’s 18th-century novelFanny Hill, Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure is here gleefully deconstructed by new young Essex company Theatre State, using a variety of styles including drag, club and a sometimes delightfully deadpan humour. Audience participation is also clearly part of their `manifesto’.
The `I Have Never’ drinking game at the start enables everyone to engage in happily admitting to various naughties. It sets the tone for what is to follow, extracts from Fanny’s memoir set alongside the parallel adventures of one of the company, Tess, a tall, thin, young woman set adrift in today’s New York.
Tess is a bit of a find. She underplays her role and tells of her encounters of near rape with a room-mate, as a call-girl in a foot fetishist club and other compromising experiences forced on her by lack of money, with an insouciant air of modesty.
Beside her, Cheryl in semi 18th century flouncing skirt as Fanny has a touch of the Helen McCrory’s about her, whilst beside her two stony-faced DJs, one male, one female, dictate her every move.
At times inchoate and rambling, as if being produced by a student drama group, the project gradually begins to darken as Tess and Cheryl lose more and more control of the action until finally, the male DJ, whey-faced and donning a skirt, takes over, assuming a drag and aggressive version of Fanny.
Tess’s tales, too, acquire a more troubling tone until, deciding she really now has a tale to tell, she is over-ridden and the music stops. Reality is not allowed.
The pre-blurb, talking of a `wicked satire on the representation of women in the media’ and `pop culture colliding with eighteenth century porn’, is perhaps a touch hyperbolic. But this Fanny Hill Project carries much promise and an appealing sense of mischief and subversion.
They could go much further – like providing a cast sheet for starters. But I hope we see more of them.
Tess Seddon: Tess Seddon.
Fanny Hill: Cheryl Gallacher.
Stage hand/Fanny Hill: Jordan Eaton.
Stage Hand: Ciarra Nevitt.
Directors: Tess Seddon, Cheryl Gallacher.