Soho Theatre, London – until 29 April 2017
Fancy Chance was born in Korea, abandoned as an infant, adopted by a conservative American family, then moved to London. After working as a table dancer and then in a peep show in Seattle, she moved into burlesque, drag, cabaret, live art and circus. Her CV that’s more varied than her cultural make-up, Fancy’s latest endeavour is her first solo performance, Flights of Fancy. Drawing on current politics, cultural clashes and expectations, and her performance history, the show is a collection of sketches that create a quirky autobiography of sorts. Endearing and fun with a biting finale, the piece’s through-line is woolly with loose connections between individual moments.
Taking a cabaret-style approach lends itself to the wonderfully disparate stories – Korean Culture camp as a child, hanging out in Seattle’s cafes, a layover in Korea, and internet dating all feature along with other topics and tales. An airline/flight frame gives the context of a journey through life but isn’t consistently imbedded. The title suits – the piece often feels whimsical and could go in numerous different directions at any time, but never lingers on any given topic for long. It’s not one flight, but a collection of numerous short ones.
The bare stage is quickly brightened with numerous splendid costumes, clever videos and her larger-than-life personality. Though this works in a small space, it could easily fill a larger space even with the amount of interaction in the show.
Fancy Chance is fun to watch with her confident honesty and chameleonic persona, but there’s the niggling feeling that the work isn’t quite sure what it wants to share. A dramaturg or co-writer could help give the show more shape and focus. The motifs she employs – air travel, growing up, a mix of cultures, disconnecting from other people – could do with stronger connections to each other.
There’s a lot of possibility in Flights of Fancy, but it tries to say so much that no one thing does more than scratch the surface. Fancy Chance has lived a rich and interesting life and certainly has a lot to say, and her autobiography certainly lends itself to some brilliant stories. Her performance is compelling in the moment and she is a joy to watch, but after the house lights go up for the last time, there’s a lack of substantial impact.