Harriet Dyer

Harriet Dyer

Harriet Dyer: Barking At Aeroplanes

Gig review by Steve Bennett at the Leicester Comedy Festival

‘Exploring the thin line between eccentric and the mental’ is perfect comedy ground for Harriet Dyer, who seems to have lived her entire life on that interface. Her instinctively funny stand-up is packed full of weird and wonderful incidents from her strange life so far – yet however outlandish the tales, they all have an absolute ring of truth.

She is a curious, larger-than-life personality with a vibrant, scatty delivery busting with peculiar energy. The fact the anecdotes haven’t been perfectly honed endears this kooky force of nature further, as she excitedly regales us with her stories.

Some could have more than a tinge of tragedy – a suicide attempt, for example or a yarn that begins ‘the first time I tried to get sectioned…’ – but they all have a heightened absurdity that revels in the oddness of her existence. And it’s not just her life that’s celebrated as strange, everyone from school chums to her dad seems to have stumbled straight out of a David Lynch film. The way she paint it, her native Cornwall might as well be Twin Peaks – and it makes for compellingly weird scenarios.

Dyer has a delightfully offbeat delivery that matches the tales, with little filter between brain and mouth that means she vocalises internal conversations and veers off on entertaining tangents as synapses spark. ‘She’s got funny bones,’ Kevin Bridges is quoted as saying on the show’s blurb – and it’s impossible to disagree. She’s certainly a natural comic insomuch as it’s difficult to see her functioning in any normal job.

That said, Dyer is not the finished product yet. Two opposing forces pull at her work: the need for a stronger sense of direction on some of the tales, and also the confidence to be able to wander freely wherever her easily distracted mind takes her, sure in the knowledge she’ll hit laughs. This is an early outing of the show, and for the moment she seemed concerned with getting her thoughts, written on notes by her side, in order. That’s perhaps right, as once the framework is learnt, she can then choose to ignore it.

But she’s an endearingly bonkers, naturally exuberant personality (she can even use the phrase ‘what the Dickens!’ without it feeling forced) who seems certain to become a comic force to be reckoned with when it comes to first-hand anecdotes.

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Published: 10 Feb 2014

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