Lexicon Lady: A Woman of Lovely Letters

Nadia Brooks loves language. Modelling herself on Countdown’s resident lexicographer Susie Dent, Brooks’ show Lexicon Lady is essentially a string of one-liners that showcase an impressive vocabulary and hyperactive mind. However, the show is much cleverer than it is funny and often the former comes at the expense of the latter.

rooks hits home turf with some strong material on Yorkshire, her anecdotal, regional mockery more warmly received than generic gags.

Though the show’s description claims to feature ‘a profusion of poetry, prose and puns’, it is mainly the puns to which we’re treated. In fact, Lexicon Lady seems to aspire much more to the status of stand-up than spoken-word, one-liners being Brooks’ weapon of choice. Brooks’ over-reliance on wordplay quickly begins to grate and it is rare that the puns she pulls elicit audible laughter. Though it seems cruel to criticise someone so charming and warm, Brooks lacks the acerbity required to cut it in comedy.

Brooks’ day job as a journalist certainly explains her wordiness. However, it also proves the downfall of her comedy, which one imagines is far funnier written than performed. There’s little performative magnetism to Brooks, who, reels off her material at an ambling pace, and seems little energised by the presence of an audience. The gags are too obviously scripted, leaving Brooks little room for manoeuvre within the set, and almost no engagement with her audience.

It’s a strange truth that part of the joy of comedy is seeing people sweat, but this tenseness and excitement about performing is precisely what Brooks, in all her wide-eyed equanimity, seems to lack. It’s also this impassivity that makes some of her jokes difficult to stomach, as she seems totally unapologetic for their cheesiness.

Brooks’ poetry and prose, however, is stronger, offsetting the need to laugh on cue and so doing justice to her more diffuse wit. Similarly, Brooks hits home turf with some strong material on Yorkshire, her anecdotal, regional mockery more warmly received than generic gags. And though Brooks ends by jumping on the bandwagon of confectionery-based bribery, sugar was perhaps my sole companion at the lonely hour of 10.45am.

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The Blurb

Kaleidoscopic collection of a profusion of poetry, prose and puns from a woman who works with words. From reports filed as a foreign correspondent, to scripts she supervises on movies... to the endless to-do lists and the tender notes to lost times and spaces… to the handwritten letters she pens responding to newspaper readers and the Post-its she puts up in the quiet carriage telling people to shush... ‘Really sunny’ (ThreeWeeks). ‘Open and unaffected speaker… warms the heart’ (BroadwayBaby.com). ‘Thank you Nadia, you’ve changed my life’ (Frank Skinner).