Lou Conran: I Love Lou C | Edinburgh Fringe comedy review by Steve Bennett
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Lou Conran: I Love Lou C

Edinburgh Fringe comedy review by Steve Bennett

There’s a deadly serious story at the heart of Lou Conran’s show so traumatic that it may put off potential audiences. But don't be deterred, for she has deftly navigated a way through the sensitive subject, finding the funny in some of the surrounding experiences and pitching the tone just right: not shying away from the devastating effects, but not dwelling on them either.

‘That’s the thing with tragic situations,’ she says. ‘Most of the time it’s fucking hilarious.’

Her story, as told in I Love Lou C, starts a long way from the tragedy, however, with the comic spending almost half the hour telling us about her rather messed-up life in a Manchester flat with paper-thin walls, hearing every noise the neighbours made. She was unhappily single, but made up an imaginary husband, Geoff, to maintain an illusion. 

It turns out she’s very good at creating characters, for her monologue is populated by memorable personalities, sketched out in witty detail. There’s her pal ‘Jenny On The In-Breath’, with her peculiar way of speaking; the grubby donor visiting the sperm bank, or the medical professional with the tiniest voice, among many others.

The latter two come in because, on entering her 40s, Conran was told she would most likely be unable to have the children she always wanted. Cue a night on the town to drown her sorrows (including the worst rendition of Agadoo you’ll hear) and an awful sexual encounter which she makes absolutely hilarious. 

Despite medical opinion, that messy one-night stand ended in pregnancy. But the tragedy is that five months in, doctors found that her unborn daughter had a condition she could not survive, and the baby was stillborn after an induced labour.

Conran understandably found this ordeal hard to process; despite saying ‘in the comedy world, everything is a joke’ there are large tracts of the story she cannot bring herself to say, only elliptically refer to. Nor, I suspect, would we want to hear it, not in this context of a stand-up show.

Yet there is humour in the extreme circumstances she found herself in, and she’s adept at bringing these out without trivialising the loss she suffered. In the retelling, there’s only one moment where she needlessly breaks the tension with a weak, nervous joke – but otherwise the shifts between light and shade are unforced. That she can spin between the happy and sad so quickly is testament to her abilities as an innately strong storyteller.

She has the room rapt even during the more everyday parts of her tale, and her candour and her resilience when the going gets tough only enhance the empathy we feel. And that gives us permission to laugh, without feeling that we are making light of her pain.

There’s no denying this is a tough topic, but Conran makes it much easier to approach. That is part of the aim, to erode the expectation of silent stoicism among women who've experienced such loss. But also she never loses sight of the fact that the primary goal of a Fringe show is to entertain, even if moments of quiet sadness are allowed too.

Review date: 11 Aug 2017
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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