The Openstorytellers Storytelling Company had their debut at the Merlin Theatre in Frome last Friday, as part of the Frome Festival, with their new production of “The Fortunes and Misfortunes of Fanny Fust: A True 18th Century Adventure Story”.
The production was the culmination of a year-long project, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund. Following their successful application to the fund, the group went on to research the life of Fanny Fust, alongside historians from the University of Bristol. This included trips to the archives in Bristol, historical tours of Bristol and Bath, visits to museums and 18th Century establishments, as well as numerous history workshops. Using their research the group then devised their performance, to re-tell Fanny’s extraordinary story, that brings up issues around capacity and consent which are still highly relevant today. As one of the performers – David – said “At Openstorytellers it’s really important that we tell people that what Henry Bowerman did was wrong. I think the audience understood.”
The performance was fantastic. The group had been preparing for months, working tirelessly on the piece to hone it, making sure they stayed true to Fanny’s story and the historical context throughout. When Friday 13th July finally came – mid heatwave! – the group arrived early at the Merlin Theatre with good time for a run through, and of course a photo-shoot! At 7pm, audience members started piling in and were immediately engrossed by what they saw. Everyone engaged in the numerous opportunities for audience participation; singing to a ballad, helping the ship sail to France and taking part in the court case. The Storytellers were captivating and told Fanny’s story with great confidence and finesse.
Feedback for the show has been tremendous. Including – “Awesome, best show this year” “Truly wonderous!’ and ‘This performance exceeded expectations of what I thought I would see this evening. Please take this show on tour!’