‘Never really gripped me as a piece of storytelling’: FANNY & ALEXANDER – Old Vic Theatre

In London theatre, Opinion, Plays, Reviews, Ticket recommendations by Ian FosterLeave a Comment

The Old Vic Theatre, London – until 12 May 2018

I can’t think of Fanny & Alexander without thinking of the phrase sweet Fanny Adams (which, sidebar, has quite the horrific origin). But more to the point, I have to say the idea of another adaptation of an Ingmar Bergman film didn’t quite fill me with enough joy to be rushing to the Old Vic (the extraordinary Scenes From A Marriage aside, I’ve not had the best of times with him).

So with Stephen Beresford (he of The Last of the Haussmans) adapting and Max Webster (he of The Lorax) directing, it was with a little reluctance that I devoted a swathe of my Easter Saturday to this drama.

The play follows the fortunes of the Ekdahls, the Redgraves of the Swedish city of Uppsala. We first witness their theatrical dynasty in full flow at an indulgent Christmas but real-life drama soon intercedes. A bleak turn of events looks to hit the children Alexander and Fanny the hardest as a newly-imposed puritanism threatens the rich imagination of their world.

It’s all a bit Gothic, increasingly so as we go into the third and then the fourth hour, and to be quite frank, it just never really gripped me as a piece of storytelling. What saves it is a beautiful design from Tom Pye, luscious red curtains turning to looming timber frames. And a quality of acting that engages no matter what – Penelope Wilton’s grande dame, Kevin Doyle’s brusque Edvard, Catherine Walker’s complex Emilie.

Ian Foster on Twitter
Ian Foster
Since 2003, Ian Foster has been writing reviews of plays, sometimes with a critical element, on his blog Ought to Be Clowns, which has been listed as one of the UK's Top Ten Theatre Blogs by Lastminute.com, Vuelio and Superbreak. He averages more than 350+ shows a year. He says: "Call me a reviewer, a critic or a blogger, and you will apparently put someone or other's nose out of joint! So take it or leave it, essentially this is my theatrical diary, recording everything I go to see at the theatre in London and beyond, and venturing a little into the worlds of music and film/TV where theatrical connections can be made."
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Ian Foster on Twitter
Ian Foster
Since 2003, Ian Foster has been writing reviews of plays, sometimes with a critical element, on his blog Ought to Be Clowns, which has been listed as one of the UK's Top Ten Theatre Blogs by Lastminute.com, Vuelio and Superbreak. He averages more than 350+ shows a year. He says: "Call me a reviewer, a critic or a blogger, and you will apparently put someone or other's nose out of joint! So take it or leave it, essentially this is my theatrical diary, recording everything I go to see at the theatre in London and beyond, and venturing a little into the worlds of music and film/TV where theatrical connections can be made."