Eleanor Tiernan: Help
Show type: Edinburgh Fringe 2007
Directed by Tommy Tiernan. Eleanor Tiernan (Comedian) and cousin Niamh (actress) present their debut play, Help! Devised and written by all three Tiernans, this is a mix of stand-up and dialogue between the comedian and actress.
Second-rate stand-up comedian, Eleanor Tiernan is not as funny as she thought she was. Her warm-up gig for the audition for the Mullingar Comedy Festival was a disaster. Panic-stricken she asks her cousin Niamh for help. They have 24 hours to turn this ship around.
I’m not quite sure what to make of this playlet about the lot of a stand-up, directed and co-devised by Tommy Tiernan and starring his sister Eleanor.
She’s a struggling comic, sticking to an artistic vision impenetrable to anyone else, so ‘dies on her hole’ when it comes to auditioning for the International Mullingar Comedy Festival with her Samuel Beckett inspired brand of anti-comedy.
Then after a debate with her inner self, or at least one manifestation of it nepotistically played by Eleanor’s actress cousin Naimh, she re-evaluates her whole set, and comes up with something more mainstream, which storms it 24 hours later.
The message seems to be you need a lot of self-analysis to find your voice and so be truly funny – and hopefully not that you should dumb it down a bit. But it’s all very slight, and not especially revealing about the psychological condition known as ‘being a stand-up’.
Eleanor is, naturally enough, woefully insecure. She hates the ‘bare eyes scorching my soul’ as she stands on stage – but even worse, she hates herself for not being a great comedian.
As an actress, she is, however, more than a decent performer, with energy and flashes of passion that breathe some life into the work. The delivery of her successful stand-up set owes more than a nod to the vein-popping fury and hectoring style of her brother, but she pulls it off. And a visual gag where she determinedly strains to write the best joke in the world ever is brilliantly pulled off. Naimh, however, has a much less demanding role, requiring her to look pretty and remain the calm voice of reason amid all this madness.
Undermining everything is the fact that the roof-raising stand-up set at the end of the show isn’t hugely funny, however well Eleanor delivers it. She is a comic in her own right, however overshadowed she is by Tommy, and Help seems an elaborate way of showcasing her short set. Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite come off.
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett