Yve Blake's Fangirls is a Virtuosic Immersion into the world of a teenage fangirl
A co-production by Queensland Theatre, Belvoir and Brisbane Festival 2019, Fangirls is a high energy new musical comedy that bursts with colour and youthful energy.
Directed by Paige Rattray, Fangirls is an exploration into the mind of fourteen-year-old Edna, an overly-obsessive fangirl who would be actually dead if she doesn't go to see Harry, the man of her dreams, performing at the True Connection concert. And, don't even get me started on the lengths she goes to try to be there at the concert. It's like, oh my god.
Playwright Yve Blake, who is also the actor of Edna, has created a script that is filled with lovable, three-dimensional characters who have their own relatable flaws. They each try to navigate a world in which society is spoon-feeding them that the best thing from them be (and idolise) are celebrities. The work further touches on other central themes, including the power of social media and its control on our lives today; making us fall in love with people we know nothing about and making us do things to ourselves because other people are doing it. Additionally, the lyrical content of the show adds flavour and texture to these thematic elements, reflecting the energetic, fast-paced, dramatic emotions of young adolescents, especially young adolescents who are in love.
Blake's portrayal of Edna and her emotional landscape hit quite close to home, as I reminisced on similar feelings I had in that time period. Although, unlike Edna, all of my fangirling was about celebrities in the theatrical world, rather than glamourized figures in pop culture. Although sometimes a bit too whiney, through Edna, Blake brings to life the teenage colloquialisms and elongated vowels as well as the emotional complexities and struggles teenagers deal with on a day to day basis. Chika Ikogwa (who played Edna's frenemy Jules) and Kimberly Hodgson (who played Edna's best friend Brianna) were such a dynamic duo, were such powerhouses to watch on stage, in their vocal repertoire and in their stage presence. One of my favourite songs of the show was their duet near the end of act one, in which the audience were bubbling with laughter as we reflected on how it felt before, what at the time, felt like a life-changing event. Sharon Millerchip was a formidable casting choice as Edna's mum, bringing such nuance and heart into such a colourfully chaotic world.
Rattray does such a formidable job in immersing the audience into the mind of the teenage fangirl and the ever-evolving paradigm of pop culture and mass consumerism through creating four technically virtuosic, visual backdrops which are spread across the Bille Brown stage. The projections are a kaleidoscope of colour that features a plethora of faces, flashing bold pieces of text and different rays of light that boom, when the beat drops. This innovative use of technology, not only is representative of what we see on our screens at home but further compliments the characters emotions, thoughts and often what I imagine, is the rate of their heartbeat. Consequently, we are constantly engaged in the world of the characters, from the cringe moments to the heart-wrenching moments. The colour palette and flare of the costumes help shape Rattray and Blake's world so perfectly, popping with fluro pinks, leopard print skirts and sequins which I could never pull off wearing.
Fangirls will turn your frown upside down, but it will also provide you with a new lens in which to reflect on the role pop culture through social media has in framing the emotional rollercoaster of not only teenagers but that of adults as well. It will also challenge your thinking of at what extent is taking 'fangirling too far and question the preconceived nature of what it is to fall in love.
Rating: 5 Stars
Written by Yve Blake
Directed by Paige Rattray
Presented by Belvoir, Queensland Theatre and Brisbane Festival