“A smörgåsbord of comic delights “
Generally, I tend not to trust people whose names are actual words. So, phonetically speaking, Elf Lyons wasn’t starting from a point of strength. However, after a fantastically absurd hour of screaming, tortured analogies and jokes about the French, I realised that perhaps it’s worth a change in policy.
Returning to the Edinburgh Festival, “Pelican” is a show (as Lyons puts it) about wishing her mother was dead. As far as thematic linkages go, it’s a doozy, and links in neatly with a smörgåsbord of comic delights pulled from Lyons’ bohemian life.
Elf Lyons’ greatest strength is immediately visible from the moment she steps on stage. The Philip Gaulier school is lucky to have such a talented clown among them – “cartoonish” does not do her justice: she has an almost fey energy to her, leaping and waving around on stage with strength unsuggested by her slim frame. Even when the occasional joke falls just short of the chortle line, her ostensibly boundless enthusiasm manages to nudge it across.
But, luckily, these scattershots are few. Far from allowing what is obviously a precocious wit to wither beneath her energy’s long shadow, it positively blooms. Much like her namesake, Lyons is far more of an opportunist than it may first appear, and an wonderfully unexpected sting after a few lighthearted puns definitely goes a long way. It’s not often that I’m surprised by a joke’s direction, but I’ll be damned if I wasn’t more than once during her short hour of comedy.
However, like many comedians, Lyons appears not to trust the quality of her own wit. Some jokes far outstay their welcome, when perhaps the beginning third would have been enough to coax a belly laugh from the audience. Her punchlines, though wonderfully clever, are delivered with more clarity than it appears she realises.
My usual recommendation for free Fringe shows is that you can’t go wrong: win or lose, nothing lost. But this is a show which deserves every penny it earns. The only reason against ticketing it is the possibility that someone will lose out on witnessing such a talented performer. Elf Lyons is certainly one to watch – though, don’t make the same mistake I did, and sit almost directly behind the pillar.
Reviewer: Jacob Close (Seen 11 August)
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