Throughout the year, Southwark Playhouse have ensured their space is in constant use. Despite having to close their doors twice (both during runs of The Last Five Years) they have kept themselves busy with online streams performed live from the empty venue. Previous titles have included Before/After and Fiver. With more planned later this month, this week it is the turn of a World premiere of new musical The Fabulist Fox Sister.
Set in New York in 1892, the show is a one man... well, one woman play about Kate Fox - the woman who inadvertently invented séances. As she is now retiring, she decides to take an audience through her life story and reveal the secrets and lies behind her trade. Loosely based on the true story of Kate Fox, it is an interesting insight in to a part of history that may or may not be true.
Kate is played by Michael Conley who also wrote the book and lyrics. Remaining on stage by him/herself (not including the spirits) for 70 minutes is a tall order but somehow he manages to keep the interest up with a truly mesmerising performance where he channels the conflicted and tortured emotions of the last remaining Fox sister.
A jazzy soundtrack by Luke Bateman ensures the speeches are broken up with some cleverly crafted, often funny songs - with even a couple dedicated to two particular spirits - Jim Bean and Glen Livet. One mild criticism is sometimes they stop and start too often, making the transition from speech to song and back slightly inconsistent and making an unnecessary struggle to stay in the moment.
The comedy is present throughout the show with some great punchlines dotted throughout the show and a lot of four-letter words, meaning this probably isn't one to watch with the kids. It isn't all laughs though as there is an emotional core to the show as Kate deals with tragedy in her life. While often thrown away with a joke, the emotion on Conley's face suggests this is another one of her frauds. A series of "crotch kicks" make you feel for the character.
Not a perfect show by any means, new works are always most welcome and allowances can be made bearing in mind this is a World premiere of new work. Slightly slow to start with, the saving grace of the show is Conley's incredible performance. Through an unrelenting 70 minutes he takes us on a journey of song and story where the one constant is the talent on stage. Add that to the talent behind the scenes pulling off a full production of a brand new musical, this is a show that is definitely worth a watch - If not today, it is definitely one to watch out for in the future as this clearly has a lot more life in it.
The Fabulist Fox Sister is available to stream at southwarkplayhouse.co.uk for two further performances on Saturday 5th December at 3.15pm and 7.45pm