views from the gods

saints and sinners of the stage and screen

Elf Lyons is a Pervert
Take Courage
7th October 2013


Elf Lyons publicity image

Photography © Grace Lightman

With nearly 200 shows packed into only four weeks, try as we might, we simply couldn't catch every act at the Camden Fringe this year. Luckily for us, the team behind the most established festival venue, theatre pub The Etcetera, have recently set up Take Courage. It's a new theatre space above The Amersham Arms in New Cross, and on its opening night, Elf Lyons reprised her one-hour gig, Elf Lyons is a Pervert. Her show was a work-in-progress during the Camden Fringe - when we unfortunately missed it the first time - but she's finished it off now.

Lyons' show has been written around her self-proclaimed love of the London Underground, although perhaps only 10 minutes are tube-related, the rest is about her life as a student, seemingly unemployable graduate and a heartbroken dumpee. There's never a lull, the full 60 minutes are thoroughly entertaining, but it's not actually the train jokes that get the most laughs. Indeed, the callbacks to Lyons' TfL nerdiness receive chuckles of recognition rather than the raucous laughter than the comedian was probably aiming for.

It may be horribly British, but when Lyons talks about the dole and how breaking up is hard to do, the audience laugh the hardest. We're nothing if not a nation that revels in misfortune - but perhaps it's the sheer relatability of this material that keeps us onside. We all catch the tube, very few of us have an encyclopaedic knowledge of it. Underdog tale? That's far more universal.

Elf Lyons publicity image

Photography © Grace Lightman

Some of the writing could do with sharpening yet, purely to keep the laughs coming faster and more furiously, but Lyons needs no work on her stage presence, she's already got that honed to a fine art. She delivers her lines confidently, and has an acute awareness of the audience's mood. As she herself acknowledges in her act, there's nothing worse than a performer who can't sense when the audience are up for a bit of participation, and when they're just not feeling it. Lyons usually comperes rather than takes centre stage and her experience controlling the room shines through.

There was another comedy night running at the same time as Lyons' show, but Take Courage is at the top of the building and far enough away from the other performance space and pub itself that this noise doesn't travel. Take Courage may just be a normal close-ended room which has been painted magnolia and kitted out with minimal theatre gear, but the high ceilings allow for excellent projection. Lyons didn't use a microphone and she didn't have to, everyone in the room could hear her clearly.

Given the provocative name of the show, the material is surprisingly tame. Lyons isn't afraid to break taboos (as evidenced by the porn anecdotes) but most of her patter is more mundane. There's definitely a demand for comedians like Lyons - her welcoming, inclusive and non-confrontational tome would certainly suit those who are newer to the comedy circuit, and haven't yet shaken off the primal fear of sitting in the front row.

Overall, there's a good service running on all lines, but Elf Lyons is a Pervert is simply enjoyable rather than side-splittingly funny. It's a solid debut, which promises better things to come. Lyons is quirky, funny and bold - certainly one to watch. Elf Lyons is a Pervert is a great way to warm up the new theatre, but we're looking forward to the main act to follow.

Elf Lyons is a Pervert ran on 7th October 2013 at Take Courage.

Nearest tube station: New Cross (Overground)

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