★★★★☆ | Fanny and Stella
Life Through the Looking-Glass?, Lady Sasha reviews Fanny and Stella, the historic drag exposé at London’s Above the Stag Theatre.
Has drag always been a drag? Not until now! Frankly, any queen living must be pig-sick of an endless tsunami of Ru Paul wannabees, with drag fiercely embraced as a personal salvation on par with the second coming of Christ! Oh, don’t get your kitty claws and dagger out just now, readers – the last thing you could possibly accuse Lady Sasha of is being anti-trans! My god, you could raise an entire battery-farm of female breasts from the oceans of oestrogen pills I’ve shovelled down, in my ceaseless quest to piss in the collective face of the binary idiocy dividing humanity!
Still, enough with the rants, but – sexy Satan on a chaise-lounge!- sometimes, a girl just has to justify her out-there, trans-everything status to avoid web crucifixion by media trolls! So – without further ado – let’s excavate the Fanny and Stella back-story, and mercifully, it’s nothing like the fluffy puppy, musical-theatre abortions infesting the West End.
So, way back in 1870, two cocks in frocks – aka rent-boys en femme- were arrested in drag by a suspicious detective at the Strand Theatre. Shockingly, they were intimately examined at the police station for evidence of anal sex – stained panties and Vaseline, anyone? – then committed for trial.
But – and it’s a very big butt – here’s where the case becomes surrealistically absurd. Though screamingly obvious the boys publicly dressed in drag to rinse and be treated to prestige events by their tranny-f*cker admirers, the judge – and jury – simply couldn’t conceive that fine, upstanding Englishmen would engage in sodomy with what were seen as pantomime dame entertainers. Why, the mere idea – in the strictest Orwellian sense – was literally unthinkable, a gorgeously naïve, conceptual blindness that we today, quite rightly, should regard as heart-warmingly innocent.
It’s such a pity, then, that such sexual gullibility wasn’t present at the later, bleakly tragic trial of Oscar Wilde, but for Boulton and Park, the patron saint of homosexuality – the pierced, Ancient Roman martyr Sebastian – smiled on their blessed butt cheeks. In short, they were fully acquitted, and their whole, astounding story- including a townhouse crammed with their besotted fanbase’s gifts of drag and jewellery- is explored in depth in author Neil McKenna’s book Fanny and Stella: The Young Men Who Shocked Victorian England.
That’s the basis of Glenn Chandler’s Fanny & Stella @ the Stag, a bravura show brilliantly sprinkled with astute, vaudeville ditties. Tobias Charles (Fanny) and Kieran Parrott (Stella) give an incandescent sheen to an infectiously addictive show that hugely benefits from our current, across-the-board, societal embrace of non-diversity culture.
Forget hackneyed, I Will Survive-style drag clichés and barnstorming; this is drag seamlessly explored as non-binary, gender fluidity, an exhilarating mash-up of male, female and in-between tropes that simply grips from moment one. Fiercely facilitated by producer Peter Bull – who’s constantly championed game-changing drama– this show deserves an immediate, West End transfer! See it now!
*To June 15: abovethestagticketsolve.com/ , 0203-488-2815