Fanny and Faggot
Finborough Theatre February 2007
Jack Thorne's sensitive and moving character study in unlikely subjects is given as fine a production as could be asked for in this reliable fringe theatre.
In 1968 two young girls murdered two even younger boys, and the first act of Thorne's play (which originally stood on its own until he wrote a sequel act) inevitably asks why.
We never see the killings or even hear about them except indirectly. Instead, we see the girls at play, in games that include the acting-out of scenes from their trial (at which the vagaries of the law convict one and set the other free).
And it is exactly in the undifferentiated quality of those games that the girls' innocence is made clear - not that they didn't do it, but that they could have no comprehension of what they were doing.
Thorne's is not an overtly political play, but when he makes the girls believably unable to understand what the adults are making such a fuss about, and honestly unsure whether 'dead' means 'forever,' his insight is clear and powerful.
(I must pause to confess to possibly missing the whole point. There are vague hints that one girl is just the imaginary friend of the other, but they don't really go anywhere, and I prefer to take the play at face value.)
The second act is set ten years later, as the imprisoned girl and a friend escape for a weekend and pick up a couple of soldiers, and the now-21-year-old who has not had a life must try to figure out how to be normal.
Again Thorne's method is elliptical and understated, gradually letting us see that the girl in the corner is not just shy, but quite literally does not know what to do next.
As directed with exactly the right gentle touch by Stephen Keyworth, Elicia Daly and Sophie Fletcher capture the young girls of Act One almost perfectly, and even the occasional sense that they are playing them a few years too young contributes to the impression of their innocence.
Daly returns in the second half to capture the puzzlement, uncertainty and courage of the young woman who does not know what normal is. She is given strong support by Diana May as her less complicated friend, and by Christopher Daley and Simon Darwen, who remind us that two horny soldiers on leave can still be nice guys.
We reviewed the original one-act version in Edinburgh in 2004. Here is what we said then:
Part of this year's all-day programme at the Lift, this 30-minute playlet is a real triumph of skill, imagination and dramatic accomplishment within the confines of two square meters. Flitting between a children's playground and a courtroom, the piece confronts us with the psychology behind and the moral problems involved in juvenile homicide. As a writer, Jack Thorne appears to be a real master of brevity and accuracy in social observation. His thirty minute script manages to capture the minutest nuances of a relationship between two ten-year-old girls as well as skilfully incorporating documentary material from Mary and Norma Bell's 1968 trial. Furthermore Sheena Irving and Elicia Daly's brilliant interpretation is entirely convincing and wonderfully communicative of the piece's inherent complexity. Their playground role-play intertwined with the court-room role-play creates a unique platform for an exploration of circumstantial evidence as well as the shifting perspectives and intricacies of our own moral judgement. That this platform is within a confined space which has the potential to release or imprison, makes this piece all the more effective in its conceit. Duska Radosavljevic
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Review of Fanny And Faggot - Finborough Theatre 2007