'Fangirls' creator Yve Blake on finding inspiration in fandoms

We meet Yve Blake, the Australian creator of Fangirls, which celebrates the power of pop’s most ardent fans. The musical plays at the Lyric Hammersmith from 15 July.

Olivia Rook
Olivia Rook

It might come as a surprise that the inspiration for Yve Blake’s musical Fangirls stemmed from a one-off conversation with her friend’s 13-year-old cousin about their undying love for Harry Styles. “She told me she’d met the man she was going to marry,” Blake says, “I tried not to laugh.”

The Australian playwright continues, “She said, ‘Don’t laugh at me. I’m so serious, I would slit anyone’s throat to be with him.’ I’m a writer and I was like, ‘That’s juicy.’”

The conversation in 2015 was an early initiation into the world of fandoms for Blake, who was, at the time, a twentysomething, aspiring playwright, and who admits she had no relationship to fan culture prior to writing her musical.

The protagonist at the heart of Fangirls is 14-year-old Edna, a diehard devotee of the biggest boyband in the world: True Connection. The source of her affections is, of course, the band’s lead singer Harry, which Blake says is a “funny nod” to Styles.

“One Direction fans were the thing that made me interested in this project, but it’s now inspired by so many different pop stars,” she says. “England has such a storied history of iconic fan culture, from The Beatles to One Direction. I think the way ‘celebrity’ functions in this country is different from anywhere else.”

fangirls casting 1200 LT

Bringing Fangirls to the Lyric Hammersmith in west London is a full circle moment for Blake. She lived in London from 2012-2015, and started writing the musical in the Caffè Nero over the road from the theatre. She even conducted her first interview for the project — one of over 100 conversations with fans — in the Pret a Manger around the corner. Since then, incredible talent has joined the creative team, such as director Paige Rattray, who was production dramaturg on the Sarah Snook-led The Picture of Dorian Gray.

Fangirls has enjoyed great success in Blake’s native Australia, with premieres at Belvoir St. Theatre and Queensland Theatre in 2019, a national tour in 2021, and a run at Sydney Opera House in 2022. Now it has been picked up by the Lyric and esteemed producer Sonia Friedman.

The theatre held an open call for performers without professional representation for the show, specifically seeking those who are less visible in the theatre industry, such as non-binary actors and disabled people. Why was this so important for Blake? “In so many moments of writing the show, I felt like an outsider, and like someone who is looking at an institution that hasn’t always opened its doors to people like me. The casting process aligns with all of our values.”

Indeed, two in the cast will be making their professional debuts and Edna, the lead, will be performed by Jasmine Elcock, who recently starred in The Crucible at Sheffield Theatres and will make her musical theatre debut.

Blake is another fresh face among the case, and despite her musical being 10 years in the making, she speaks about Fangirls with the passion and enthusiasm of someone discussing it for the first time. “The show has got this absolute cheekiness to it and that’s what I’m really excited for audiences to see,” she says. “Sure, it’s a show that’s called Fangirls. But it’s not just about fans and it’s not just about girls. It’s about that feeling of when you’re a teenager and you can love something limitlessly and you don’t know any better. I think everyone can connect to that.”

YveBlake 1200 LT Photo by Andrew Fraser (1)

She believes that Fangirls had to be a musical because “the emotions were much too big” for another style of theatre. Yet, musicals weren’t always Blake’s first love, which is an interesting twist for a writer who has impressively penned the book, music, and lyrics for Fangirls.

Branding herself a “theatre kid”, Blake used to wander around with an Ibsen play tucked under her arm and thought she was only into “serious drama.” But a collaboration with a local boys’ school on a musical theatre production changed everything. “I met this kid who kept on referencing Wicked,” she explains, “and I was like, ‘What is that?’ And he said, ‘It’s a musical.’ I put together some argument about how musicals weren’t as high an artform as plays, and said they were misogynist and corny. He said ‘bullshit’ and made it his mission to prove me wrong.”

After an intensive revision period, in which Blake was instructed to listen to the cast recordings of musicals including In the Heights and Spring Awakening, she was “radicalised.” In another “gorgeous, full circle moment,” this childhood friend — Jonathan Ware — became Fangirls’ original dramaturg.

Many things about this production in London feel like perfect timing. After a year in which Taylor Swift fans discovered a new level of dedication, generating an estimated $5 billion for the US economy in 2023, and Zendaya sent supporters wild with her red carpet looks for Challengers, fangirls are more powerful — and more vocal — than ever. “It’s so exciting for this show to be coming out in 2024,” agrees Blake. “Between Beyoncé, Taylor Swift, and Barbie, we have this incredible proof that women’s interests not only matter, but are extraordinarily, economically viable.”

After such success on the other side of the globe, has Blake got any worries about the show’s UK premiere? “I don’t feel nervous, I feel a real faith in everyone working on it. It’s going to be beautiful. I hope that doesn’t sound too cocky, I’m just really excited.”

Blake, just like the fangirls she so ardently defends, is not someone to be underestimated. We’ll save a seat for Harry on opening night.

Book Fangirls tickets on London Theatre.

Book Tickets CTA - LT/NYTG

Main photo credit: Yve Blake. (Photo by Andrew Fraser), second photo credit: the cast of Fangirls

This article first appeared in the June issue of London Theatre Magazine.

Originally published on

Subscribe to our newsletter to unlock exclusive London theatre updates!

  • Get early access to tickets for the newest shows
  • Access to exclusive deals and promotions
  • Stay in the know about news in the West End
  • Get updates on shows that are important to you

You can unsubscribe at any time. Privacy Policy