Fringe 2018 Comedy Review: Elf Lyons: SWAN

Who: Elf Lyons

What: SWAN

When: Until the 18th of March (full details on Fringe page)

Where: Producers Garden at The Producers

How much: $16 to $25 (full details on Fringe page)

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Elf Lyons. Photo credit: Adelaide Fringe

From certain angles, classical ballet is the quintessential bougie art form. Elaborate costumes crafted with painstaking detail to sweeping mythical narratives; every aspect of training and performance is cloaked in tradition and oozes prestige. Elf Lyons, accomplished British comedian and theatre-maker, is not a huge fan. In her delightful ‘SWAN’, Elf seizes Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake and turns it into marvellous shambles. Sending up the melodramatic tropes — rooted in sexism and hilariously nonsensical storylines — of ballet, her one-woman interpretation makes for original, heart-warming comedy.

Franglais is the language of the show. Though the audience was slightly confused by this at first, the gag grew to be a consistent source of amusement. In retrospect, it also obviously tied in nicely with SWAN’s theme of calling out the absurdly pompous; a British comic tradition.

Lyons is an absorbing performer, and as the piece progresses one gets the sense that she’s as much of a lovely, quirky person outside of the parrot costume as she is within it. Her timing and delivery are beautifully crafted, and with her naughty smiles, pseudo-serious faces and knowing looks she is a strong contender for the most endearing comedian I’ve come across in recent times. Elf furthermore knows how to nail audience participation. Providing the perfect balance of support and harmless yet hilariously observant insults, every viewer was made to feel included in SWAN by its creator. Boundaries of personal space may have inevitably been stretched, but always with charm. Finally, the occasional addition of a personal anecdote or self-aware comment obliterated whatever there was left of a fourth wall.

The piece’s inventive use of its limited materials and venue is commendable. Apparently, many of Lyons’ props were confiscated by customs on her way to Adelaide. Reject Shop pool noodles, children’s toys and household appliances hence became a sweeping landscape filled with a chorus of vividly ridiculous characters. Truly, with the help of Elf’s talent and theatrical expertise, the magic of good theatre and storytelling- the power to transform a stage into a world- shone through.

4 out of 5 stars

Katerina Grypma

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