My Fanny Valentine

Sat 12th – Sat 19th August 2017

reviews

Mark Bogod

at 11:40 on 17th Aug 2017

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Goodness me, what a title! Please, we’re British, he wrote laughing nervously. Well, I suppose it’s being honest. This is certainly a show that has a lot of vaginal content (no nudity, though). In it, Megan Juniper performs what is essentially a cabaret show with snippets of spoken word thrown in. Juniper is undoubtedly a highly talented actor and singer, but on the whole, the premise just doesn’t quite work.

In ‘My Fanny Valentine’, we join Megan Juniper on a tinder date gone wrong with gynaecologist Dr Van Gina, who thinks she is coming for a check-up appointment. The songs that form the bulk of the performance are made to fit in well with the plot, sometimes revealing Megan’s inner thoughts, sometimes contributing to the unfolding story. Often the songs have had their lyrics cleverly rewritten, to great comedic effect. A particular highlight for me was the song about sexually-transmitted diseases to the tune of the Jackson Five’s ABC (altogether now: STD, HIV, HPV, baby you and…oh, you get the idea).

There is no doubt that Juniper is a highly skilled performer with quite a voice. She manages to fill the small room perfectly, accompanied just by a keyboard (whose player frequently interjects with ‘fanny facts’). It was also refreshing to hear a voice at the Fringe without a microphone, Juniper relying on her superb natural projection. She moved with ease from song to song, covering a range of styles from Great American Songbook to Ed Sheeran. Her talent is reason enough to go and see this shown.

So why not four stars then? The main problem with this show is that the premise just doesn’t quite work, or at least the two actors and pianist don’t make the most of it. The short scenes in between the songs failed to raise a laugh, and were not acted with particular conviction. Given the hospital setting, the show could have at least attempted something of a Carry On-style farce, but instead most of the dialogue fell flat. Not having a plot at all would have also been an improvement, and might have allowed Juniper to exhibit her clever lyrics and pleasing voice on more than just one subject. The public service announcement in the middle of the final song, while well-intentioned, also just seems a little bit thrown-in at the last minute. You should still come and see this show, at least if you happen to have an hour to spare, but be prepared for strange premise and plot being used to carry the great singing.

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Ruby Gilding

at 14:12 on 17th Aug 2017

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Axe wound, clam, baby canon. Many creative interpretations have graced the vagina, and ‘My Fanny Valentine’ promised to be another. However, it was more badly packed kebab than cave of wonders. Leggy Blonde Productions have returned to the Fringe with another eclectic cabaret in which storytelling and music combined for some rather flat comedy.

Megan Juniper enthusiastically launched into her role as a date-deprived woman on Valentine’s day. “Drifting like a plastic bag,” Juniper adeptly captured the restlessness of the Tinder generation (a reminder of her previous Fringe show ‘Love Me Tinder Cabaret’) as her character negotiated a gynaecology appointment mistaken for a hot date. However, from here on in all subtlety went out the window and Juniper’s character became an embarrassing caricature of a sex-mad woman. The object of her affections, or rather predations, was Dr Van Gina; a character so one-dimensional that he lent little to the production beyond his overly emphasised name. The central premise of ‘My Fanny Valentine’ was unconvincing; were we really meant to believe that Megan understood Dr Gina’s questions about her menstruation to be the dedication of a man searching for his ‘baby oven’? Either way, this confusion meant that many, if not all, of the jokes landed flat.

The show saved face through its use of song. A smorgasbord of musical numbers were woven into the performance throughout and carefully reworked to fit the sexual health theme. Salt-N-Pepa’s ‘Let’s Talk About Sex’ was successfully applied to a discussion of Sexual Transmitted Infections – I would never have thought that being sung the symptoms of Gonorrhoea could be entertaining as well as educating. Other standout songs include a take on Blondie’s ‘Maria’ and, my favourite, a creative rendition of Stevie Wonder’s ‘Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I’m Yours.’ Juniper bravely handled mash ups of different songs, however, her renditions were occasionally let down by her rushed pace. When Juniper measured her delivery and projected, both her comedic and vocal talents shone through. Regular interludes from pianist and musical director Doug Price, were a welcome break from the storytelling. Dryly reeling off names for the vagina followed by a ‘Fanny Fact,’ Price brought the only genuine peals of laughter amongst the polite, pained chuckles. However, this structure soon grew tiresome and Price’s talent was sadly restricted by the repetitive material.

The main let down of the performance was its confused ending in which multiple messages were crammed together. This made it unclear what the actual takeaway of the cabaret was: a vague plea about not hiding behind a “cutesy name for my ladyhood”, the introduction of sex education in primary schools or the shockingly high rates of Chlamydia. At its worst, the ending verged on slut shaming – my alarm bells began to ring when I heard the precursor “now we’re not encouraging you to go out and be slags…” Dr Gina solely handing out condoms to the men in the audience captures just how out of date and unfunny ‘My Fanny Valentine’ really was.

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