After 2016’s slightly disappointing
A truly personal yet absurd and relatable hour
Clearly Lyons’ time at the Ecole Philippe Gaulier was not wasted. The physicality of her show is mesmerising, and her inventive use of objects as characters is bewildering; a lip-synced song by a crocodile hand-puppet almost moves one to tears despite the lighthearted nature of the show, and her use of short witticisms and thoughts to illustrate the dimensions of her characters succeeds in fleshing them out both quickly and recognisably. All her characters seem to come from somewhere personal, indeed witnesses to her past shows will recognise distinct personalities among them. The Black Swan is used by the comedian as an opportunity to describe a past lover at length, a nice private interlude in a show which combines both high culture and silliness to create something alienating to no-one.
The show is incredibly directed; Lyons takes advantage of all the space available to her on-stage, and the tech cues, consisting of a discerningly curated playlist of songs and well-thought out lighting effects, are honed to perfection. Indeed, the curious juxtaposition of the clearly heavily-considered performative aspects and the tchotchke nature of the props and costumes creates a fantastical contrapposto which serves to highlight the show’s fanciful nature, an aspect consistently put into focus as she takes pot-shots at Tchaikovsky’s more whimsical imaginings despite taking far more artistic liberties herself.
Swan is esoteric comedy at its finest, and seems to be as enjoyable to watch as it is to perform, with Lyons occasionally breaking character to give the infectious wide, beaming smile of an indulged child. Though her family may want her to continue her PhD, when something of this calibre is her diversion there seems little point. It’s rare to see an intellectual comedian demonstrate their smarts in such a passive, unassuming way, and makes a refreshing change to the many, especially male, comedians at the Fringe who prefer to aggressively flaunt their intellect, as if nobody else has heard of or seen Stewart Lee. A truly personal yet absurd and relatable hour that will make you think, laugh and cry, what feels like a magnum opus is only her third Edinburgh show.