Adapted from the graphic-memoir by cartoonist Alison Bechdel titled ‘Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic’, Fun Home is a Tony Award winning musical, with music by Jeanine Tesori and both book and lyrics by Lisa Kron.
The Melbourne Theatre Company production of Fun Home, directed by Dean Bryant, co-produced with the Sydney Theatre Company, was originally meant to open in Melbourne back in 2020, however it was unfortunately cancelled due to Covid reasons and lockdowns. While the production did end up opening in Sydney in 2021, at one point I did fear that it would never open in Melbourne. But finally in 2022, and with a few cast changes due to scheduling commitments, MTC’s Fun Home has opened in Melbourne, and wow, was it worth the wait!
The musical follows the characters of Alison, played by three incredible actresses on-stage throughout various stages of Alison’s life; Flora Feldman, Teja Kingi, and Sophie Isaac share the role of Small Alison throughout the production’s season, Ursula Searle plays college student Medium Alison, and Lucy Maunder is adult Alison who doubles as the narrator. The musical studies Alison’s growth, acknowledging the dysfunctional setting of her family life and childhood, the discovery of her true-self and sexuality, and reflects deeply on the undeniable common ground and bond with her father.
I had heard great things about Fun Home, but I was never certain on what I was getting into and what to expect. Fun Home is all told in one part with no interval, which only further enhances the intensity and power it holds.
MTC’s Fun Home non-replica production set is on a rotating stage that mostly changes between a house with an upper tier small library, a funeral home, and Alison’s college. The rotating stage cleverly assisted the story, swiftly moving between different timelines but always accompanied with Lucy Maunder’s commanding narration.
The cast of MTC’s Fun Home are solid and ferociously talented. Every cast member of this production combines their talents to put on a powerful performance, that by the end, I was broken and sobbing in awe. Special shoutout to Lighting Designer Matt Scott who creatively and cleverly orchestrated an effective and pivotal moment with the show’s additional character, the stage lighting.
The adult characters in Fun Home are not shown as perfect, but are flawed, conflicted, frustrated, uncertain, and aching, yet still undeniably loving towards the children. Euan Fistrovic Doidge is great in the many roles he takes on throughout the story. It’s effortless how he steps into each role with sincerity. Alison’s self-sacrificing mum, Helen Bechdel, is raw, believable, and a masterful performance from Silvie Paladino.
The actresses who play Alison at different points of her life are equally as impressive as each other. One would think that the idea of having a story be told in a non-linear way with several actresses playing the same character would be confusing, but it works seamlessly. The on-stage chemistry between each Alison and her father Bruce Bechdel played by Adam Murphy, is endearing and bitter-sweet. Adam Murphy’s performance is quite possibly the heart of the show, as the loving father who hasn’t really had the room, time, or capacity to really love himself.
While the songs in Fun Home are pleasing on the ears, I did not find any of the songs really memorable. Instead, they are used as dialogue replacements and anchors to further excel the story. This isn’t a bad thing, as songs in musicals aren’t always intentionally created to be catchy hooks. In Fun Home‘s instance, the songs were dedicated to enhancing the powerful storytelling. I also found that I could relate to the communication issues that Alison had with her father, as I too undeniably had a lot in common with my late-father, and we always struggled to verbally express things to one another. Although the heartfelt intentions, much like in Fun Home, were always there.
This show is one of the best productions from Melbourne Theatre Company that I’ve ever seen and is a must-see before it leaves Melbourne. Fun Home is a captivating, beautiful, soul-crushing, and heart-breaking musical that is based-on-truth and is both a coming-of-age story and tragedy. Whichever way you look at it, Fun Home is a loving and forgiving open letter to all our fathers.
Fun Home is playing now at the Playhouse, Arts Centre Melbourne until the 5th of March.
For more information and ticketing on MTC’s Fun Home, visit: https://www.mtc.com.au/plays-and-tickets/whats-on/season-2022/fun-home/
Photography by Jeff Busby.