Edinburgh Evening News

Fanny Hill (Edinburgh Evening News)

Fanny Hill

Deliciously risque play makes lust a big laugh

Fanny Hill first appeared with her Memoirs Of A Woman Of Pleasure in literary circles in 1749, and it’s astonishing to think that for more than 200 years, until 1970, this book remained firmly on the banned list.

In Afterthought’s production a company of nine players sets about re-enacting the diary of the naive young country virgin turned expert pleasurer of gentlemen. Thomas Everchild’s adaptation for the stage catches the essential lusty humour and irreverence of John Cleland’s original book, and gives the cast a firm grounding from which to work.

The regal strains of the harpsichord link each scene and are in direct contrast to the starkness of the set, which is completely black but for two tables and a stool. This lack of set dressing concentrated the attention fully on the characters, relieved the audience of unwanted distractions, and brought the intricacies of the 18th century costumes – designed by Isobel Drury – to the fore.

Actress Philippa Hammond is instantly likeable as the much-sought-after Fanny, and brings an unexpected grace and vulnerability to the character. Between them the remainder of the cast portray myriad characters, presenting the illusion of a much larger company. As the perils of Mistress Fanny unfold, they manage a whirlwind of costume and character changes with ease. Some nice comic touches keep the pace up tempo. One scene in particular, in which an unwanted suitor tries to prise Fanny’s legs apart, is priceless. While some scenes are deliberately overplayed, the direction is always tasteful, and you never quite see as much as you imagine you have. Nevertheless, the inclusion of any number of peccadilloes, and an orgy scene, make this very definitely adults-only.

The whole piece is firmly set in the bawdy school of low humour. Touches of Benny Hill and Carry On surface briefly, but mostly the intelligent script explores the base reality behind the veneer of genteel respectability in an enchanting and highly entertaining way. The sex scenes are handled with either the aforementioned comic touch or, more often than not, a sensuality and sensitivity that is surprising and most welcome. While in this day and age Fanny Hill might be considered tame, its capacity to outrage is still there, as demonstrated. last night by the audience reaction to the naughtier scenes, and outrage is an element that this production uses to its best advantage.

Afterthought Productions have a scorcher of a show on their hands with this one. It’s sure to be a hit with Fringe audiences. Get your ticket now, because Fanny Hill is going to sell out.

Liam Rudde

The List

Fanny Hill (The List)

Fanny Hill

For those of you unaware of the book, Fanny Hill is a scandalous piece of Georgian erotic fiction that falls into the British tradition of bawdiness somewhere between Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones and Joan Collins’ The Stud.

Like Tom Jones, it is an odyssey from innocence and into the high fashion, sophisticated tastes and debauchery of the London of Hogarth and Dr Johnson. The Madames, rakes, fops and sailors of this time are wonderfully evoked and the erotic adventures and encounters of our heroine vividly realised. That Philippa Hammond, in the role of Fanny, can narrate at the same time as simulating a good back-alley rogering is remarkable.

It would be wrong, though, to mistake Fanny Hill for being some sort of cheap thrill theatre. Philippa Hammond, who besides playing the lead is the driving force behind the production, realises the piece in some style. To adapt such a notorious work of fiction as this cannot have been an easy task. But it is one that the ensemble cast uniformly rise to. In this they are aided by an admirable collection of period costumes of West End standard.

This is a genuinely good production. It is adult and includes a good deal of nudity though nothing too explicit; it’s very rude, often funny, but without ever descending into bad taste. Fringe drama doesn’t come any more stimulating than this.

Ross Holloway
The List

The Scotsman

Fanny Hill (The Scotsman)

Fanny Hill

This adaptation of John Cleland’s neglected Georgian masterwork is a hugely enjoyable bawdy romp through one woman’s life and sex life, which for the purposes of the tale appear to be virtually interchangeable.

The eponymous heroine, a naïve country virgin, finds herself all alone in the world with nothing but a bag of second-hand trinkets to her name, when a chance meeting with an old schoolfriend sets her on the path to the big city and a life as a streetwise whore. But Fanny is not wretched at the thought of having to turn tricks to make her way, and in fact fate continually smiles down on this “tart with a heart”: when one brothel door slams in her face another seems courteously to fly open.

The play is packed with erotic adventures of all shapes and sizes nailed by a versatile cast which delights in taking many parts, dropping many breeches and lifting many skirts. It’s deliciously naughty and well worth staying up for.

Jane-Ann Purdy
The Scotsman