By Darby Tunbull
Harry Styles is a fascinating pop culture figure, you either get him or you don’t, I’m the latter, however I think I just about get the people that get him. The break-out star of teen heartthrob sensation One Direction he’s managed to parlay his immense popularity into a solo act and dabbled in acting. His success seems to hinge on just how little he gives away, leading to wild online speculation and fantasy about who the ‘real’ Harry is and more importantly how and which of his ardent followers will break through. He’s a remarkably flexible avatar for desire; queer, straight; he invites both gazes as well as a fluidly androgynous style that enhances rather than diminishes his allure. Time moves with him, twenty years ago it wouldn’t be culturally prudent to show himself as an equal opportunity thirst trap and his success would vastly depend on how effectively he ‘passes’ as straight and cis whatever his identity might be.
A fine line by Lily Hensby and Lotte Beckett is a buoyant and insightful exploration into fandom and fantasy in the 21st century and Harry Styles; role in the internal narratives that provide a little bit of comfort in the hectic realities of everyday life and exactly where the line is between fantasy and fixation. Hensby and Beckett’s text, directed by Gaden Sousa, is fast paced and elastic featuring a series of sketches that represent the internal life of super fan Lola. Both immediately inspire the audience to rapt participation, employing them as a real life audience for a Styles concert, and they willingly rise to the occasion with the assistance of home made signs. Lotte Beckett plays Styles himself with sly cheek and reverence in a loving send up of his public persona and ability to bend himself to whatever the object of his desire needs him to be. Lily Hensby’s Lola shows someone whose identity has been eroded by her obsession with Styles and the life together she’s concocted that it’s impacted her real life. Hensby is very good at showing the weariness and yearning of someone who’s deferred their own personal growth to a comforting and sometimes toxic narrative.
The production, running a brisk 45 minutes takes on a lot thematically and whilst entertaining it feels like a preliminary outline for what this show could be with more productions. Given the flexibility of the structure they could really take it anywhere and if desired go deeper, more twisted, more irreverent with their exploration. Lola as a character sometimes gets lost within the narrative as the scenes get more colorful, and more of a sense of how she fits into her own fantasy. The development of the already wonderfully creative ideas to maximize impact and allow the more emotionally pointed moments to land with more precision. What for example does it mean for Hensby to play multiple characters within Lola’s fantasy and how does that reflect on Lola? Right now it feels like a grab bag of wonderful ideas and Fringe is an ideal opportunity to show them in front of an audience to see which ones stick. Luckily they’ll never lack material, the affair between Styles and director Olivia Wilde during Don’t worry darling completely overshadowed the film itself and formed such a force of cultural fascination that the play can reference it without much need for clarification.
Hensby and Beckett’s A fine line, is the ideal festival show. Compact, enthusiastic; it provides a much needed jolt of energy as the Fringe evening enters the later hours and doesn’t allow its short running time to sag under its own weight. Lily Hensby and Lotte Beckett are fast proving themselves an irresistible creative duo and their latest collaboration will undoubtedly flourish with more opportunities to perform it