November 6, 2017
By: Alicia Hawco
Recently, I attended Fun Home, a play based on the memoir by Alison Bechdel, at the LSPU Hall in St. John’s. This show has personal significance to me because it was the first musical that I saw live. I have listened to the cast recording multiple times and it is easily one of my favourites.
The plot is simple, yet very effective. A woman, who is now the age her father was when he died, recounts her life and her relationship with him. From this, we get three stories: Alison when she was a kid, as first-year student in college, and as an adult. Small Alison (as she’s known), provides an amount of comic relief and shows her innocent love for her father. Medium Alison’s story is of her coming out experience. The oldest Alison’s story is her remembering these other two times in her life. In her role as the narrator, Alison’s dialogue is self-referencing and fourth-wall breaking, meaning she has the ability to cross over to different times, reading diaries and providing her own sense of hindsight to specific moments. These three interlocking stories make for a very interesting experience as a viewer. Due to the complicated relationship with her father, there are many hard questions that Alison asks herself about his death. By remembering her life, she attempts to answer these questions.
This production was done by Best Kind Productions and was a marvelous experience. Everything in the design was made to incite nostalgia: the set was small and homely, the live band (which I was sitting right next to) had the right balance of woodwinds like clarinet and strings like violin, among other instruments, which make it sound very child-friendly. The strongest aspect of this show was easily the cast.
When I started watching the show, I felt an amount of reluctance, mostly because the original Broadway cast were so near and dear to my heart. However, this was immediately demolished as the show went on. As the scenes moved from lighthearted to serious, so did the performances. All the actors did amazing jobs, but special indication must be given to Allison Anstey as the excited but also scared Medium Alison, Aiden Flynn as the morally grey father, Bruce, and Melanie Jardine’s heartbreaking performance as Helen.
The songs “Ring of Keys”, done by Jenna Pittman as small Alison, and Vicki Harnett as Alison, “Telephone Wire” and the monologues she does between songs are worth mentioning as well. Despite knowing what I was getting into, these performances in the second half made me emotional. One, called “Edges of the World,” allowed me to become so immersed that I felt my legs become weak in my chair. It is an experience that I don’t think I can compare with much else.
This is a great show done with a fantastic cast. The writing is clever in how it develops one character using multiple points in her life, and the music is at once chilling, heartbreaking and nostalgic. It uses this nostalgia to talk about important issues, including acceptance of LGBTQ+ children, as well as kids acting like their parents, the problems that can cause, and the blame that people can place on themselves in the wake of tragedies.
The issues I have can be considered nit-picking or feminism theory (namely that, despite what the show likes to think, gender expression and sexuality are two very different things). Past that, this show is important because it ends with hope. Alison, despite having torn feelings for how her father treated her, is able to move on. She can separate from her dad and be her own person by the end of the show. While it was hard for her to do, it was, ultimately, a rewarding experience, that allowed her to become a better person. This is an important moral to anyone, especially a viewer who may be around the age of medium Alison.
Because of all of this, I wholeheartedly recommend Best Kind’s production of Fun Home. The show is no longer running at the LSPU Hall, but you can still listen to the amazing soundtrack on Spotify. Regardless, it is very much worth your time.