Number One Fan – Traverse Theatre

Number One Fan pleasantly surprised me with how well it tackles complex topics while still delivering some really funny punchlines. It was as much entertaining as it was thought-provoking.

The plot of this short but punchy piece focuses on middle-aged Jan (Joyce Falconer). We are introduced to her as she complains about a controversial opinion piece written by Jack (Callum Cuthbertson) about how women who have entered menopause are ‘no longer able to be sexual beings’. As Jan criticises Jack’s preference for girls between the ages of 18 and 25, her husband Andy (David McGowan) says he doesn’t see a problem with older men dating younger girls, before coming clean about his own affair with a 26-year-old. From there, the plot follows Jan as she attempts to get Jack to take back the things he said so men like her husband don’t see him as an example to emulate.

For such an emotionally intense plot, Number One Fan does a phenomenal job of staying mostly lighthearted. The jokes are consistently funny. Falconer’s delivery in particular is nothing short of brilliant as she transitions smoothly between cracking jokes and discussing difficult topics. Jan’s ideas of torture had me in stitches – thinking about the awfully off-key singing and very bad recorder playing still brings a smile to my face. Without spoiling it, the ending is also unexpected and entirely hilarious.

It’s rare to find a female power fantasy that gets to be funny without becoming uncomfortable, but I feel that this play checks that box perfectly. Even as Jan holds Jack hostage until he writes a piece that’s more in line with her own views, the piece is written to keep the sympathy of the audience firmly with her. She puts a particular kind of man in his place – one most, if not all, women have encountered at some point in their lives. It felt good to watch her flip the standard power dynamic.

I found the little details in this production to be delightful as well. From the choice of music to the lighting and colors on-stage, everything helped to tell the story and set the appropriate moods. The costumes were well-selected and each prop helped to bring the scenes to life. I especially appreciated the framed photograph of Jan and Andy in the background. It served as a constant reminder of the life Andy would choose to walk away from for a younger woman while also factoring into one of the funny moments in the play.

In 50 short minutes, Number One Fan creates a memorable story that is equal parts funny and heartfelt. Each of the actors delivered excellent performances. If I had the chance to see the play again, I wouldn’t hesitate to do so.

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Isa Reneman

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