Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Been So Long - Tinge Krishnan

Been So Long - Tinge Krishnan

What was perhaps most divisive about La La Land was its evolution of the Hollywood musical into something more cynically realistic. For all its overt song and dance numbers and romantic visual effects, it’s a film about a normal couple with an all too relatable ending.

Been So Long, from director Tinge Krishnan, walks a similar line. This is an urban fairytale about love – set up immediately in the opening scenes – that centres on ordinary people with ordinary problems. The film makes a fantasy of the everyday, its London setting a place where epiphanies occur in a kebab shop, where love songs are (hilariously) professed in the shower, where friendships reach breaking point at a bus stop. All this to the backdrop of mundanity, of gentrification, of danger lurking in the night.

It’s a bizarre concoction but it works. The core narrative is little more than soap opera fluff with a will-they-won’t-they hook. Simone (Michaela Coel) is a single mother living in North London setting her own life aside for the benefit of her daughter. Raymond (Arinzé Kene) is fresh out of jail on probation, cleaning the streets and living with his mother. They make an unlikely couple but, predictable as it all is, it’s hard not to get sucked into their developing romance. Coel in particular leads the cast with warmth and humour, deftly balancing the ironic juxtaposition of fantasy and reality, and her chemistry with Kene is palpable.

By contrast, the various subplots are under-developed. George Mackay gives an accomplished physical performance as Gil – a presumably homeless guy (though this isn’t confirmed) with an obsessive vendetta against Raymond. Yet the film sugar coats the darker side of urban life, leaving Gil as a cuddly comedy character rather than a pitiable villain. The same can be said of Luke Norris as Barney, proprietor of the local bar that’s in danger of shutting down and who clearly has an unrequited crush on Simone. The film’s love conquers all message feels naïve and saccharine in such an urban setting.

More than anything, the film is a love letter to London and British culture. The city is filmed in soft hues often at the cusp of dusk, with vibrant colours popping through the lighting, sets and costumes. Neon lettering for phone communication adds a modern edge too.

The music, from Christopher Nicholas Bangs (based on compositions from Arthur Darvill), follows the British theme. It takes its cue from British R&B, soul and hip-hop, which adds authenticity to the setting. It’s in the songs, though, that the fantasy kicks in, which is jarring at first. It’s not helped by some trite lyrics and lacklustre vocal performances. But this suits the relatable, everyday nature of the film – normal people living a fantasy.

And we all need some fantasy in our lives from time to time. It relies too heavily on shallow cliché, but Been So Long is tongue in cheek and comforting – exactly what you expect from a movie musical.

3/5

Watch: Been So Long is showing at the London Film Festival and will be released on Netflix on 26th October.


Saturday, 13 October 2018

New Music Friday 12/10

Little Mix feat. Nicki Minaj - Woman Like Me

Little Mix feat. Nicki Minaj - Woman Like Me

No one can touch them. Other girlbands have been and gone, split up and disappeared into obscurity, but Little Mix just keep ploughing on as a solid foursome. Perhaps the key to their success is that they've rarely set trends but have just built upon those set by others. Woman Like Me is no different. Feisty delivery, lilting reggae rhythms, Nicki Minaj rap feature. It would be a great single, if it hadn't already been done two years ago by Ariana Grande in Side To Side.

Worth a listen.



ALMA - Cowboy

ALMA - Cowboy

After a string of singles and EPs, Finland's Alma is still exploring and defining her sound. The debut album, though, is due next year and Cowboy is its lead single. The Americana feel, lyrics depicting her move to L.A., and the song title together feel a little on the nose, but it does retain the thumping beats and catchy hooks we're used to.

Worth a listen.



Maggie Rogers - Light On

Maggie Rogers - Light On

It's been two years since Maggie Rogers rose to fame in a viral video in which, as a college student, her work was critiqued by Pharrell Williams. Light On, her latest single, looks back at those two years in a love letter to her fans. "Would you believe me now if I told you I got caught up in a wave?" she astutely questions in the opening lyric, before a chorus aimed at her fans that explores the fragility of fame: "if you're gone for good, then I'm ok with that." The production swells with cinematic grandeur and tiny details alike - her album early next year should be a consolidation of her talents.

Worth a listen.



KWAYE - Paralyzed

KWAYE - Paralyzed

The Zimbabwean-London singer KWAYE was picked up by a music exec in an Uber and impressed with his unique electro-funk. But Paralyzed is the singer's most arresting track yet - a stunning R&B ballad that pairs vulnerable falsetto with stark production. The lyrics explore the fear of acceptance, of being judged by those we love, portrayed beautifully in the song's black and white video. It's as heartbreaking as it is empowering.

Add to playlist.



Little Dragon - Lover Chanting

Little Dragon - Lover Chanting

Lover Chanting is the title track from the Swedish group's forthcoming EP, a track that's almost comforting in its familiarity. The house beats snap and bounce like rubber bands and singer Yukimi Nagano's enchanting vocal curls around the melodies - sounds we've come to immediately associate with Little Dragon. A solid inclusion to the group's ever-growing oeuvre.

Worth a listen.



Sia - I'm Still Here

Sia - I'm Still Here

Oh look, Sia has released another anthemic ballad with indistinguishable lyrics and a soaring vocal. This might be her forté, but it fails to rise to the levels of Chandelier, Diamonds or Alive. And yet, she's still here...

Don't bother.



Áine Cahill - Water Into Wine

Áine Cahill - Water Into Wine

Irish singer Áine Cahill is quickly finding a niche in gothic-soul, pairing a huge vocal with dark, menacing synth production. It worked for breakout hit Blood Diamonds, which developed from the more traditional sounding previous tracks Angels & Demons and Plastic, and it works for Water Into Wine. All melismatic vocals, clipped beats and richly layered production, this is a swirling, evocative release.

Worth a listen.


Friday, 28 September 2018

New Music Friday 28/09

Robyn - Honey

Robyn - Honey

Robyn's showing off a gentler, sweeter side on her new album 'Honey', and that's exemplified by the title track. "Come get your honey," she almost whispers in hushed tones before the electronic production whisks us away on a wave of euphoria. Her pop hooks are inescapable, but with her new music she's leaning more heavily on dance influences for something altogether more hypnotic and subtle. It might not be the out and out banger that we want, but it's the Honey that we need.

Add to playlist.



Olly Murs feat. Snoop Dogg - Moves

Olly Murs feat. Snoop Dogg - Moves

Snoop Dogg has featured on tracks from some of the biggest artists in the world. Now he's stooped to Olly Murs. This is unmistakably an Ed Sheeran cast-off, but Murs just isn't cool enough to even pull that off. They might be making moves, but they won't be making waves in the charts.

Don't bother.



Jess Glynne - 123


Jess Glynne has just discovered maths and has put her newfound knowledge into yet another song with a number-based extended metaphor. Other than that, this is the usual bland, bleating affair that you've heard ten times already.

Don't bother.



Lady Gaga & Bradley Cooper - Shallow

Lady Gaga & Bradley Cooper - Shallow

For most of us, this is our first taste of A Star Is Born that stars both of these...stars. Its narrative context is therefore unknown, but as a standalone song this is a country ballad written by Gaga in a 'Joanne' vein. Cooper's voice is a gruff surprise, but Gaga soars towards a powerful final chorus - and an inevitable Oscar nod.

Worth a listen.



Muse - Pressure

Muse - Pressure

Muse impersonating The Darkness? Is this a joke? Please tell me this is a joke...

Don't bother.



Dusky Grey - One Night

Dusky Grey - One Night

The Welsh duo might not be delivering the most original music, but One Night is another solid banger. Over a reggaeton-tinged beat, the pair share regret over cheating on a lover - "you're the one my body wants, but not what my heart needs," they sing. It's three minutes of pop that plays to the rulebook, but doesn't miss a beat.

Worth a listen.



Hanne Mjøen - Sounds Good To Me

Hanne Mjøen - Sounds Good To Me

Scandi-pop has become so omnipresent it's hard to stand out. Sounds Good To Me, with its fizzing synths, driving beats and icy vocals, sounds instantly familiar, but it's such a delicious mix you can't help but fall for Mjøen's Norwegian charm. This sounds pretty good to me.

Worth a listen.



Lauv feat. Julia Michaels - There's No Way

Lauv feat. Julia Michaels - There's No Way

For his follow up to I Like Me Better, Lauv has joined forces with Julia Michaels - There's No Way has her vocal rhythms all over it. The lyrics bristle with sexual lust - "But maybe we can hold off one sec, so we can keep this tension in check" - that's matched by the syncopated synth stabs, production that's at once both romantic and urgent. This is irresistible pop.

Add to playlist.



AURORA - Churchyard

AURORA - Churchyard

A gentle a capella beginning. Weird twisting melodies. Haunting vocal harmonies. And then the beat kicks in. This is an arresting goth-pop release from Norway's AURORA that explores an abuse of power, with shades of Björk and Kate Bush, and production that seems to call out over ancient, wind-swept fjords.

Worth a listen.




Saturday, 22 September 2018

New Music Friday 21/09

Rita Ora - Let You Love Me

Rita Ora - Let You Love Me

It's become a bit of a joke but it is now finally happening: Rita Ora is releasing a new album, six years after her debut. The title, 'Phoenix', is a little nauseating, but it represents the return of a genuine star after a string of successful singles. Let You Love Me might just be the best of the lot, its yearning chorus melody juxtaposed with deep bass and a delicate finger-click beat.

Add to playlist



Lana Del Rey - Venice Bitch

Lana Del Rey - Venice Bitch

Few artists could get away with releasing a nine and a half minute track of hushed vocals and dreamy guitars. But this is Lana Del Rey, "your little Venice bitch". Two minutes in and it takes off: a delicious trip of layered guitar melodies, whirring electronics and vocal hooks. It's easy to get lost in this extended west coast fantasy that epitomises the guitar-focus of her new material.

Add to playlist.



Au/Ra - Emoji

Au/Ra - Emoji

The Camelphat remix of Au/Ra's Panic Room has been doing the rounds on radio recently and now the 16 year old pop singer-songwriter is following it up with Emoji. The themed lyrics are a little tongue-in-cheek, but there's a more serious side to this song that details an online relationship and the fear of catfishing, all over anxious, choppy electronica that fittingly blends the digital with the emotional.

Worth a listen.



The Chainsmokers feat. Kelsea Ballerini - This Feeling

The Chainsmokers feat. Kelsea Ballerini - This Feeling

Duo The Chainsmokers made a name for themselves with their shallow lad-dance, but This Feeling, taken from new album 'Sick Boy...This Feeling', has a more emotional side. Frequent songwriting collaborator Emily Warren returns, now joined by country singer Kelsea Ballerini learning to think with her head "not that thing in my chest" over the usual beat drops we've come to expect.

Worth a listen.



Avril Lavigne - Head Above Water

Avril Lavigne - Head Above Water

This isn't the high-tempo return you might expect from the singer of Sk8er Boi, Girlfriend and Here's To Never Growing Up. But Lavigne has spent the last five years battling Lyme Disease, which she described as "the worst years of my life" in a candid letter to fans on her website. It adds a whole new layer to this ballad - "don't let me drown, drown, drown," she sings. A welcome and emotionally-charged return.

Worth a listen.



Allie X - Little Things

Allie X - Little Things

Here's Allie X continuing to write relatable synth-pop. This time she's complaining about the little things that are so inconsequential and yet can make us so mad: "death by a thousand cuts." It's an addictive, clever, fizzing pop song, but from her you'd expect nothing less.

Add to playlist.



MØ - Imaginary Friend

MØ - Imaginary Friend

What begins as a typical sounding house track builds towards a chorus with an unexpected beat. But then, would it even be a MØ track without a twist on the familiar? The Danish singer's second album 'Forever Neverland' is due out next month, featuring the likes of Charli XCX, Empress Of and of course Diplo.

Worth a listen.





Still Alice @ Richmond Theatre

Still Alice @ Richmond Theatre

It's fitting that this touring production of Still Alice should arrive at Richmond just in time for World Alzheimer's Day on the 21st September. Adapted from Lisa Genova's best selling novel (which also became an Oscar-winning film starring Julianne Moore), it follows Harvard professor Alice as she's diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's.

This is a heavily edited adaptation from Christine Mary Dunford. With a running time of an hour and a half (with thankfully no interval to break up the emotional intensity), there's plenty of cut material from small details to whole characters. As such, the narrative plays out in short scenes and fragments - perhaps a choice to reflect the small snippets of Alice's memory, but it doesn't quite flow together. Early on it feels cold and clinical, though it soon settles into a more emotional rhythm.

What's also missing is the life of a linguistics professor that Alice is forced to give up, so heartbreakingly portrayed in the novel. Instead, this shifts focus to the impact of her illness on her immediate family. Her son Thomas (Mark Armstrong) struggles to modify his life; daughter Lydia (an accomplished turn from Ruth Ollman) is more patient, their mother-daughter relationship becoming paradoxically closer as Alice's condition worsens. Her husband (Martin Marquez), meanwhile, is too consumed with his own career, or perhaps he's simply burying his head in the sand.

As Alice, Sharon Small gives an emotional, deeply affecting performance. The most important relationship in the play, though, is the one between Alice and herself - played literally by Eva Pope. There are some truly touching moments between the two women: a gentle stroke of the face, a protective arm around a shoulder. Alice's reliance on a self that soon will no longer exist is at the tragic core of the narrative, though this separation of character does rob her of the strength and determination to succeed in spite of her illness that makes her such an endearing character. It's an overtly theatrical device, lacking in naturalism.

Alice's condition is best conveyed in Jonathan Fensom's design, with a stage that gradually empties. What was once cluttered, chaotic, yet full of life becomes empty, sparse and bleak - a devastating visual metaphor. In the centre of it all she remains, still Alice.

3/5

Watch: Still Alice is touring the UK until 24th November.

Still Alice @ Richmond Theatre

Still Alice @ Richmond Theatre
Photos: Geraint Lewis

Monday, 17 September 2018

Troye Sivan - Bloom

Troye Sivan - Bloom

Earlier this year, Troye Sivan provided a track for the soundtrack to queer coming-of-age film Love, Simon. Strawberries and Cigarettes is a real standout, but it also marked Sivan's increasing pop stardom alongside collaborations with Ariana Grande, plus mainstream media coverage and a primetime performance on SNL.

It's a fitting inclusion, too, with this second album being something of his own coming-of-age. He is, quite literally, blooming into adulthood and fame.

Everything about 'Bloom' is more self-assured than his 2015 debut 'Blue Neighbourhood'. The songwriting is more confident, the production more polished. The up-tempo tracks are more jubilant and buoyant, the ballads more openly raw. And it's more...well...gay.

Sivan is perhaps a reluctant queer hero, but 'Bloom' is an out and proud celebration of queer love. Who else could deliver such an unashamed moment of exultant pop as My My My! complete with 80s-tinged Madonna-aping sexually fluid video? Who else could release a cute synth pop song - also the name of the album - that's actually all about bottoming?

More so, the album covers so many aspects of gay romance. Opener Seventeen details the excitement and naivety of exploring sexuality for the first time; later on What A Heavenly Way To Die Sivan imagines life with a partner years in the future. In between, there's the joy and addiction of new love, the uncertainty of a relationship coming to an end, the difficulty that ensues, and then on closer Animal a 4:25 slow-burning profession of love.

Coming from Sivan, 'Bloom' is inherently queer, but its themes are universal. Indeed on Dance To This the worlds of homosexuality and heterosexuality collide as both he and Ariana Grande (an astute collaboration with this year's number one popstar) profess their desires to stay at home and "just dance to this". Sivan is open about his sexuality almost to the point of banality - it's important but it's everyday, it's noted but in the simple and palatable context of a really good pop song.

'Bloom' has plenty of them. The chorus of My My My! is a rush that tingles through every inch of the body, while the soft synth pads and sharp snare beat of Bloom create the perfect blend of hard and soft. Plum follows suit with an extended metaphor and vibrant production masking a more melancholic feeling, while Lucky Strike plays with gendered language over its gently pulsing electronica. When the album slows it relishes in emotion - Animal in particular, with its sparse Frank Ocean-esque production, is a delicious end to the album.

And so 'Bloom' marks a turning point in the career of Troye Sivan. A queer artist thrust into the mainstream, sexuality on his sleeve and a collection of outstanding pop songs under his belt. This is the sound of an artist growing in sexual and musical confidence, blooming into himself.

5/5

Gizzle's Choice:
* My My My!
* Bloom
* Plum

Listen: 'Bloom' is out now.





Saturday, 15 September 2018

New Music Friday 14/09

Lana Del Rey - Mariners Apartment Complex

Lana Del Rey - Mariners Apartment Complex

Lana Del Rey songs tend to go one of two ways: edgy and interesting, or kind of dull. This track, taken from her forthcoming sixth album, is more of the latter. It's got the usual morose, ennui-soaked delivery but it's a more straightforward ballad than we're used to, despite the gender reversal twist of its chorus lyric "I'm your man". Jack Antonoff's production is easy to get lost in, but it needs more of that delicious mix of hard and soft that makes her music so alluring.

Worth a listen.



The 1975 - Sincerity Is Scary

The 1975 - Sincerity Is Scary

The return of one of the biggest bands in the world has so far been very disappointing. Sincerity Is Scary certainly has more melody than the last two singles and its production has more genre-defying interest with its fragments and samples of horns, clipped beats and lazy basslines. Lyrically, though, it's a self-referential stream of consciousness that doesn't really amount to much. Gone are the succinct pop-rock songs of the past - now the band seem lost in their own ideas.

Worth a listen.



James Hype feat. Craig David - No Drama

James Hype feat. Craig David - No Drama

I realise this dancehall flavoured track is a basic bop, but there's something fun and addictive about it, you know?

Worth a listen.



LANY - Thick And Thin

LANY - Thick And Thin

Initially luxurious, LANY's music soon wears thin with its repetitive sounds. Thick And Thin is LANY through and through with its smooth synth lines and light funk guitars, but that punchy snare drum makes it all worth it this time.

Worth a listen.



Mariah Carey - GTFO

Mariah Carey - GTFO

Mariah Carey's career is just one meme-worthy moment after another. This is no exception. Incredible stuff.

Worth a listen.



David Guetta, Bebe Rexha, J Balvin - Say My Name

David Guetta, Bebe Rexha, J Balvin - Say My Name

Guetta's seventh album, imaginatively titled '7', is out now and features all the terrible collaborations and tired EDM pop you could expect. It's typified by Say My Name: grating vocalist awaiting a big break, tie in with a Latin artist to seem relevant, structure around a non-chorus that doesn't go anywhere. The second half of the album centres on what Guetta does best: DJing. If only he'd stick to that and stop trying to be a popstar.

Don't bother.



Tom Aspaul - Going Down

Tom Aspaul - Going Down

Aspaul's career still hasn't quite taken off since his brilliant Indiana was taken by Kylie Minogue for Feels So Good. But Going Down proves he knows how to write a decent pop song. Uptempo, buoyant, 90s vibes mask the downbeat lyrics of a world falling apart - a fun bop with a dark interior.

Worth a listen.



Friday, 14 September 2018

Losing Venice @ The Orange Tree Theatre


Losing Venice @ The Orange Tree Theatre

“But this country. This country we so dearly love, is she admired? She used to be. She used to be great, used to be respected, used to be feared. But now what part do we play in the world?”

This quote could conceivably be a present day comment on the state of our nation. Instead it’s taken from this revival of Jo Clifford’s 1985 play Losing Venice. Set in the Spanish Golden Age of the 17th century, it explores issues of gender, masculinity and the downfall of a nation – performed in 2018 it is bizarrely prophetic.

The narrative centres on a Spanish Duke (Tim Delap) and his poet Quevado (Christopher Logan). Following his marriage, the Duke grows restless and weary of his new wife (Florence Roberts) and so, through a desperate desire to prove himself, sets out to take over Venice from the Italians. But playing with timeframes, director Paul Miller and designer Jess Curtis blur the lines between historically accurate costumes and a vivid, 80s punk sensibility that lends the production a rebellious and disruptive spirit. That continues with Terry Davies’ music that uses both electric guitar and mandolin.

The first half offers an intriguing exploration of gender, through some witty dialogue and amusing double entendres. As a critique of masculinity it works – pathetic, gullible and inadequate - though its female characters seem thinly drawn by comparison. More intriguing still is that Clifford’s experience as a transgender woman has over time surely coloured the play’s gender politics.

In the second half, though, the production doesn’t just lose Venice but the audience too. On arriving in the Italian city, the characters embark on a surreal journey through sewers and dark candlelit hallways, led my mysterious religious figures. It’s just not clear what it all represents, meaning the initial battle of the sexes soon falls apart.

It remains, though, an engaging watch. The unique aesthetic and strong performances do somewhat pull it all together – Delap’s crotch thrusting Duke is a tumbling pillar of masculinity, Logan flaps amusingly as the poet, and Eleanor Fanyinka gives a more grounded performance as servant Maria. But we’re ultimately left in the lurch – which is another fitting and prescient parallel to today’s political indecisions.

3/5

Watch: Losing Venice runs at the Orange Tree Theatre until 20th October.

Losing Venice @ The Orange Tree Theatre
Photos: Helen Maybanks

Thursday, 13 September 2018

Janelle Monáe @ The Roundhouse



Three albums in and Janelle Monáe is still not quite the megastar she deserves to be. Critical darling, sure, but commercially she’s still yet to have a real hit (besides her feature on fun.’s We Are Young) and current album ‘Dirty Computer’ is nowhere to be seen in the charts either in the UK or her native US.

Watch her live, though, and it’s a different story. As a performer she is nothing short of phenomenal, making that lack of commercial success all the more criminal. Not that the hordes of fans at the Roundhouse would care, enraptured as we all were.

There is literally nothing that Monáe can’t do. As a singer her vocal is powerful, impassioned and agile; as a dancer her movement across the stage is every bit the electric lady. Her energy is boundless, offering a vibrant and ecstatic display of showmanship, her personality as vibrant as the colours of her outfits, the staging and the psychedelic screen images that form her backdrop.

And she flits through genres with ease. Songs from ‘Dirty Computer’ of course dominate, but throughout the night she deftly switches from the electro-funk of Crazy, Classic, Life and Screwed, to the sweet pop of Pynk, the futuristic RnB of I Got The Juice, the sultry I Like That and Primetime, before moving to the modern funk Big Band style of Tightrope from her first album. And that voice dips into fierce rap on the likes of Django Jane and Q.U.E.E.N, the audience hanging on every word. Only oddball single Yoga stood out as a tacky pop song, no matter how ironic its lyrics.

Monáe is, in many ways, the lovechild of Prince, Michael and Janet Jackson. She has the funk and sexuality of the former, the vocal inflections, stage-command and charisma of Michael, and the military costumes and precision silhouetted choreography of the latter. A short reference to Purple Rain provided a welcome tribute.

Yet to simply compare her to her influences would be a disservice. Monáe is so much more than that. This is a queer black woman empowering her audience with her music. “Say it loud, I’m dirty and proud,” she has the audience shouting early on, the whole theme of the gig equality and self-love, encouraging us to fight for our rights and fight for love. Her pop music is politically charged, from the cheeky feminist symbolism of Pynk, to the state-of-the-nation song Screwed that has her performing in front of riot images. “Embrace what makes you unique, even if it makes others uncomfortable,” she demands.

But it’s all delivered with a sense of fun and humour. “Let the vagina have a monologue,” she quips on Django Jane, before emerging in vagina-shaped trousers for Pynk. Later she swigs from a bottle of wine while singing Don’t Judge Me. Her cyborg persona, Cindy Mayweather, may be a political machine, but Monáe herself is a relatable figure beneath the stardom.

And she gives us everything. By the end of her relentless, tireless performance she has literally stripped off before launching herself into the audience for a crowd surf. She spends much of the performance in a military-themed jacket and hat, every bit the ringleader, a queen on her throne, and we are her willing subjects as she preaches her gospel of love. She is, in her own words, “black girl magic” and we are well and truly caught under her spell. Who needs commercial success when you can change the world?


5/5

Friday, 31 August 2018

Fun Home @ The Young Vic

Fun Home @ The Young Vic

The beautiful Fun Home might not be the musical we deserve, but it's the musical we need. In many ways it serves as a powerful warning to promote the importance of mental health, in the LGBT community especially.

This is the musical's first appearance in the UK since winning five Tony Awards on Broadway when it opened in 2015. With music from Jeanine Tesori and book and lyrics from Lisa Kron, it's based on a graphic novel from Alison Bechdel that explores both her own sexuality and that of her father who tragically commits suicide.

The narrative is presented as a series of fragmented memories, the adult Alison (Kaisa Hammarlund) looking back on her life to answer the questions around her father's death. The show's central theme is that of grief, Alison searching through faded memories to create a comic strip of her relationship with her father as a method of coping. That she draws comics is significant - not only in a reference to Bechdel's graphic novel, but in that they often use humour to cover a deeply serious message.

Fun Home, as the title suggests, does the same. Up-tempo songs and moments of sweet comedy cover up what is a dysfunctional family. Gradually the narrative layers with tension as we await the inevitable crushing conclusion where this family life comes crumbling down.

It's also the parallel story of two people coming out - Alison and her father Bruce (Zubin Varla) - and the differences in how they cope. Alison's story is told in three parts: as an adult, a child (Harriet Turnbull/Brooke Haynes) and as a teen in college (Eleanor Kane). We see her development from innocence and naivety, to wise cynicism with clear consistency of character. It's Kane's depiction, though, that's most compelling, initial insecurity making way for the sheer glee of finding herself before the shocking revelation of her father's sexuality drags her down.

Bruce's coming out is far more painful. Here is a man who absolutely struggles with his sense of self, closeted and only exploring his sexuality in the seediness of night. More so, he overcompensates through his busy work and interests in art, imposing his views upon his daughter and living vicariously through her. He is somewhat painted as a typically troubled homosexual with shades of paedophilia, but the focus is the relationship with his daughter, equally fractured and loving. There are parallels and dissonances between them at all stages in Alison's life, early stages filled with small touches that cleverly only make sense later on.

There's also the devastating subplot of Helen Bechdel (Jenna Russell), Bruce's wife who knows full well that he's a homosexual but is powerless to change her life. Her warning to Alison about her father - a scene of crushing honesty when he himself is incapable - is perhaps the most heart-wrenching moment in a show that's full of them, owing to Russell's subtle and relatable performance.

Tesori's music is perhaps a little unremarkable. The contemporary chamber music score is full of catchy upbeat tunes and gently mournful string and clarinet melodies, but its purpose is always to serve the intimacy of the drama and not to stop the show. In that sense, the music is very much woven into the fabric of the narrative, songs used as inner monologues.

That's important in a show about mental health. In some ways, it reflects a cheery side to tragedy, but the writing is exceptionally relatable. There's the rush of thoughts with the excitement of coming out. There's the pleading to speak when no words will come. And there's the sensitivity to stop words altogether when they seem impossible, feelings left unspoken.

There are so many layers to the domestic drama of Fun Home. It is an outstanding musical of human empathy, tugging on the heart strings in the most earnest, raw way. You cannot fail to be touched.

5/5

Watch: Fun Home runs at The Young Vic theatre until 1st September.

Fun Home @ The Young Vic