MiNDFOOD Reviews: ‘Fangirls’ is a moving depiction of teenage heartbreak

By Gill Canning

<em>Photography by Brett Boardman</em>
Photography by Brett Boardman
If you are not a teenage girl, you may think a musical named Fangirls is not for you. But you’d be wrong.

I went to see this show, only mildly interested in the story of a group of young teenagers, their obsession with the latest global pop sensation, Harry, and the lengths they’ll go to in order to meet him. 

Although I am a few decades from being a teenager, I do fondly remember being obsessed with singers like The Bay City Rollers and David Cassidy (that hair flip!!) and the space they occupied in my teenage brain (and heart). And so, within about 10 minutes, I was won over by this endearing and hilarious show. Fangirls is an entertaining return to that time in our lives – when parents are barely tolerated, when having friends is second best only to having a boyfriend/girlfriend and getting tickets to our heartthrob’s concert is beyond awesome. As the three friends Edna, Jules and Briana exclaim in a glorious example of teen-speak when they secure sought-after tickets to visiting superstar Harry’s show, “Oh my God, I’m actually dead!!”

Photography by Brett Boardman

As well as this teenage trio of misfits who bond through their shared eccentricity and love object, the cast includes Caroline, Edna’s strong, overworked single mum, who, like most parents, tries and fails to connect with her offspring but never gives up anyway. And then there is ‘saltypringl’/Jonathan, Edna’s online fellow fan fiction writer and queer, funny friend, who shines with sassy, lovable bravado. The Voice Australia finalist and musical artist, AYDAN rounds out the cast as the larger-than-life Harry.

Photography by Brett Boardman

This sparkling show was written and originally performed in the lead role of Edna by young Australian performer, Yve Blake, who interviewed hundreds of ‘fangirls’ in the process. Since its debut in 2019, it has bagged a slew of awards, including Best Production of a Mainstage Musical at the Sydney Theatre Awards in January 2020. 

The set design is minimal with simple props, but a huge backstage screen depicting dozens of fangirls and boys is both effective and mesmerising. 

Photography by Brett Boardman

Fangirls is a moving depiction of overblown teenage emotions and heartbreak but manages to also be joyous and effervescent. It explores the responsibility pop stars have to be what their fans imagine and fantasise about and it gets a little dark in the second half but manages to retain its sweetness through the characters’ sheer likeability and Blake’s lightness of touch.  

The whole ensemble is brilliant, however special mention should be made of relative newcomer Karis Oka as Edna, her besties Brianna (Shubshri Kandiah) and Jules (Chika Ikogwe), and her online buddy and fellow crusher, saltypringl (James Majoos). These four performers light up the stage and are stars in the making. 

If Fangirls is the future of musical theatre in Australia, we are in for a sweet decade.

Fangirls is playing in 2021 at: 

  • Belvoir Theatre, Sydney, Until 20 February
  • Adelaide Festival, 27 February – 4 March
  • Wollongong Town Hall, 18-21 March
  • Canberra Theatre, 24-28 March

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