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Fan Girl at Etcetera Theatre

There are people who are so obsessive about their favourite actors that it becomes problematic – I read a news item recently about a man who was given a stalking protection order, prohibiting him from directly or indirectly contacting his favourite actor or the actor’s agent, having sent letters, parcels and thousands of emails, as well as knocking on her front door on numerous occasions. I was once messaged on social media by someone claiming to be a friend of a musical theatre actor who had appeared on stage at a concert at the Royal Albert Hall I attended, demanding to know all sorts of details about what went on and who said what to whom: I felt like replying that they really should talk to their friend, if indeed they are friends, about such matters, but in the end I just ignored it.

Fan Girl at Etcetera TheatreFan Girl is almost at pains to point out that what Geraldine (Chloe Hazel) is up to isn’t hurting anyone, and there is no malicious intent. There’s sufficient detail about what goes on at fan conventions for people like me who have never been to one (and have no intention of doing so any time soon) – I can imagine such events can never be all things to all attendees, and there will be people who come away disappointed. Interestingly, this is a fictional account in every sense of the word – it’s not as if one could find ‘Zenobia’ episodes on Amazon Prime. This is neither here nor there for the likes of me who wouldn’t know one television series from another, and as a narrative device, it puts everyone on the same page.

The use of an actual series, say Star Trek for instance, would probably be divisive: with different members of the audience having different levels of knowledge about it, some would be bored rigid by any and all explanatory elements in the script, while others might feel as though one had to have some prior knowledge before seeing the show. Then there’s the Zenobia character, based on a third-century queen of a region in present-day Syria, whose television incarnation appears to have given Geraldine comfort through some challenging circumstances (of which arguably not enough is spoken of in this short play). The play’s conclusion seems to suggest, at least to me, that Geraldine has achieved some form of closure through everything that happened at the convention (and it was, without giving too much away, an eventful weekend for her), with the possibility of not being quite so obsessed in future about a particular show.

Elements of the narrative don’t quite add up: for instance, Geraldine starts to feel anxious when having to decide whether to continue socialising or head off to watch something on Sky Atlantic. An obsessive, I would have thought, would have arranged to have it recorded or make use of catch-up services, or otherwise it would be a no-brainer and they would have dropped everything and go to watch the programme they had intended to see.

But these are negligible points in what is otherwise a very charming and versatile performance from Chloe Hazel, who voices (I am reliably informed) twenty-one characters, including other fans, hotel guests, a member of bar staff, and the actors who she continues to adore even after awkward encounters. It’s a very personal narrative, and one never gets the feeling that this is indicative of anyone else’s fan convention experiences. A coming-of-age story that raised more than a few smiles in its rollercoaster journey.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

FAN GIRL is a one-woman comic drama about Geraldine, a lonely secretary, who takes the opportunity to use her savings to go to Leeds to attend the first ever UK Zenobia fan convention, which celebrates a cult American TV series now in its third season. Dressed in her homemade Zenobia costume, she ventures forth to meet her TV heroes. Written by award-winning playwright Eddie Coleman, the play also poses the questions: who is Geraldine doing this for and who will she be when she returns?

Cast: Chloe Hazel
Writer: Eddie Coleman
Producer: Kyra Jessica Willis
Stage Manager: Adeane Hardy
Production Team: Monsteers Aristry
Director: Vicky Critchlow
Costume Designer: Scott Day

Etcetera Theatre, 19 to 23 July 2022

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