Mundane is not a word that could be used to describe Elf Lyons’ Raven. Disturbing, certainly. Unhinged? But of course, but in an overly impish and gleeful way as Lyons leads us like Pennywise through her Stephen King inspired show.
Elf Lyons is a monster of a performer, and she is beautiful
There’s a lot to unpack in this show, but all of it comes together in an amalgam of controlled (and at times uncontrolled) rage as Lyons names and shows us her monsters, from Kevin Bacon to Karens on the train. Sometimes smashing fruit is just smashing fruit, but in Raven, there is more to everything than initially meets the eye.
By spinning an intricate narrative web, Lyons completely owns the stage and audience, keeping us on tenterhooks throughout. She constantly surprises us with the direction of the narrative arc, despite her signposting and even telling us what we should expect, and what happens goes beyond our wildest imaginations and emotional competency (personally I am still not over Chapter 3). There’s no ‘just’ when describing Lyons’ show, because she has completely re-written the rules and set the standard for playing with an audience’s expectations. Using the full range of the technical abilities of the Soho Theatre, Lyons’ storytelling manages to bring the immediacy and tension of a horror story without losing any of the more comedic aspects, changing the atmosphere of the space suddenly and almost on a whim to suit her. Raven not only balances the horror and comedy well, and although there is a degree of separation in Lyons’ emotional vulnerability, she manages to turn it into a reassuring lesson of cathartic destruction.
Having trained in mime at École Philippe Gaulier, Lyons has an incredible amount of control over her body and the characters that she embodies. There is an elegance and preciseness to her physical comedy that adds a daintiness to her typically brash demeanour and storytelling. Choosing from a selection of accents, vocal qualities and physicality, every role that Lyons takes on is unusual and mysterious in that very specific way that we encounter in horror stories, which makes us all the more wary of the characters. The level of detail in Raven is amazing, to the point where the show is filled with layers upon layers without it feeling overwhelming or losing any meaning. Her control over us is as cosmic as that of the marionette strings that she keeps on her characters.
Whether you find Lyons horrifyingly comic or comically horrifying, Raven is a story for the ages. This show is incredibly accessible, even to those not entirely familiar with the Stephen King universe or just aren’t fans of horror. With Raven, Lyons provides us with the tools that we need to fight our monsters. Laughter may not always slay them, but she proves that it’s enough to at least keep them at bay. One thing is absolutely clear; Elf Lyons is a monster of a performer, and she is beautiful.