views from the gods

saints and sinners of the stage and screen

Lydia King: A Date with Density
Etcetera Theatre
17th August 2014

★★★☆☆

Lydia King

Photography provided by Lydia King

I realise this review is probably a bit like an unsolicited message on a dating website. It's unwanted, critical and probably will make me look like a bit of a jerk in the process. But, unlike a lot of Lydia King's romantic entanglements outlined in her stand-up show, I hope it won't be wilfully misogynistic (although it probably will be), too sexually aggressive or too dull to warrant reading.

It's a well-trodden comedy path, the whole failed relationship, online dating schtick. Let's face it, the whole thing was probably over and done with about eight years ago. But for some reason - perhaps it's the unashamedly high-energy opening (frankly too much for the Etcetera but therein lies its brilliance), the unashamedly foul-mouthed King or the unashamedly ripped-off song parodies - that breathes a fresh lease of life into the subject matter.

I'll be honest, going in I was expecting a Dave Gormanesque comedy Powerpoint presentation detailing her 33 (or more, she's lost count) first dates, picking each apart with scalpel-like precision and a dry wit. But that's not King's game. It's more like an overenthusiastic pal keeping everyone entertained post-party, having got her hands on the record player and host's acoustic guitar and dying to show off. I mean all of this in a good way.

It's this joie de vivre in the face of utter adversity that makes the main thrust compelling. The aforementioned parodies are witty and engaging, and this is from someone who tends to think they're lowest common denominator stuff. In a few, such as a great song about couples, she ramps up the Nick Helm-style acting out but unlike Helm, it comes from a place of perfect security. Other people are wrong. In other places, she attacks sexual mores with a pre-QI Jenny Eclair-like glee, revelling in the sordid and humiliating details of a failed threesome and candidly admitting her own stupidity. It's disarming and engaging, although if she really did hold back because her dad was in the audience as she claimed, I shudder to think of the torrent of filth that would spew forth on any other night.

Where the show suffers isn't in the gags or the pacing, but rather the more nuanced language. Early on, King name-checks comedy wunderkind Stewart Lee (immediate brownie points) but doesn't employ one of his golden rules herself. Every single word Stew chooses is vital. The intonation, the semantics, the syntax is all necessary. Maybe it's a relative inexperience, but King's palliness doesn't have this. You may argue she's a different kind of comedian, which is true, but "he was like...", "and I go..." or even "and I learned a lesson on that day" are all repeated without irony, callback or even reference. Certainly not a death-blow, but vaguely niggling. The dates themselves also don't get much of a look-in, with a large portion of the show her humiliating normal dating life up to the point of going online.

Still, for its minor flaws, King delivers an entertaining show with a knockout final gag which both duped and delighted the audience. I sincerely hope she stays single forever. Not because I wish her a life of misery for the hour I spent in her company, but because her abject torment could - and should - fuel many, many more hours of affable, deliciously crude and vivacious stand-up.

Lydia King: A Date with Density ran from 14th to 17th August 2014 at the Etcetera Theatre, as part of the Camden Fringe.

Nearest tube station: Camden Town (Northern)



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