Fun Home review

05.05.21

Lucy Maunder in Sydney Theatre Company’s Fun Home, 2021. Photo: Prudence Upton ©

Listen, I’m not a musical person but here we are reviewing Fun Home, based on the graphic novel by Alison Bechdel with Book and Lyrics by Lisa Kron.

I’m starting to think the term “musical person” is a scam because I always say I’m not about them, then I always enjoy myself? Anyways let me paint a picture: Alison is a cartoonist who grew up in a backdoor funeral home and we follow her from childhood into her college years, through the process of discovering her sexuality, and finally into the present day. After the death of her father, she is forced to piece together her life and figure out all the repercussions, which sounds hectic but it’s really not. The show is structured in a way that makes it super easy to follow without spelling out the entire story for you as we jump between worlds and time zones. Director Dean Bryant does well creating a production that stands tall without making a total spectacle of the story, and although there are elements of that, the story remains pure and authentic.

Emily Havea and Maggie McKenna in Sydney Theatre Company’s Fun Home, 2021. Photo: Prudence Upton ©

All the performers were fantastic but I wanna single out Maggie McKenna who for me was the standout. SHE’S JUST SO GOOD! Maggie didn’t make a single wrong move, even watching her listen was interesting. Also shoutout to the kids in the production, especially Katerina Kotsopoulos playing small Alison, who all exuded joy and excitement. It’s something so beautiful to watch when kids act and actually enjoy what they’re doing. Marina Prior also deserves a shoutout as she broke hearts with a beautiful song towards the end of the show (I almost cried).

Technically the show was amazing. I mean it’s Sydney Theatre Company, the expectation is quite high and they didn’t fall short of it. A revolving stage, an entire house spinning, a tree growing from the ground, staircase, a car, a dorm room – it was a lot but it all worked perfectly. Lighting also was a standout here especially during a number between Alison and her dad towards the end of the performance. And of course, this wouldn’t be a musical without amazing music (by the way I never knew they played the music live, lol).

Fun Home. It’s fun. Go see it.

Adam, 20

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Fun Home is nothing short of captivating in its ability to rope in audiences with its charming wit in confronting contemporary themes of suicide and sexuality. Alison Bechdel, whose 2006 graphic novel the musical was based on, is also notably the creator of the Bechdel test, which charts female representation in fiction against feminist values. The musical was originally performed on Broadway and has now been introduced to the Sydney Theatre Company under the guidance of the talented director, Dean Bryant.

Lucy Maunder and Adam Murphy in Sydney Theatre Company’s Fun Home, 2021. Photo: Prudence Upton ©

Truthfully, going into the theatre, I didn’t know much about the musical and I certainly did not expect to be completely invested in the life of the Bechdels. Their highs and lows showcase the cast’s contagious energy which is nothing short of enthralling.

The musical itself follows Alison Bechdel’s relationship with her father and discovery of her sexuality, as portrayed by three different versions: small (her childhood), medium (her first few months in university) and older (her as an adult). This had a lasting impact on me as it was able to weave together the parallel narratives and conversations between each stage of Alison’s life. Simultaneously, seamless transitions which make use of a revolving stage enhance the progression evident in Alison’s emotional awareness and depth. Among the most notable is Katerina Kotsopoulos, who shines in her role as small Alison, accurately reflecting her innocence and naivety surrounding her relationship with her father and her sexuality.

Katerina Kotsopoulos in Sydney Theatre Company’s Fun Home, 2021. Photo: Prudence Upton ©

It’s impossible not to admire the insanely attentive work of the crew operating behind the scenes. This is inclusive of, but not limited to: the authenticity in stagecraft, symbolic colour coordination in costumes and variants of harsh and soft lighting. Each meticulous and purposeful selection effortlessly brings the Bechdel’s world to life, which encourages a close and intimate relationship between the audience and Alison’s grief and confusion. This is brought to a climax towards the end of the musical, before reaching a resolution tying together the humanity and heart-warming nature behind Alison’s journey.

Unlike your typical coming-of-age story, where it is irrefutable that time and age has made one wiser, Fun Home skilfully positions the audience to instead question how to accept an explanation where one is not given.

Alexis, 17

Sydney Theatre Company’s Fun Home is playing at the Roslyn Packer Theatre until May 29. Book your tickets here.

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