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Eleanor Tiernan: Trouble - Fringe 2009

Note: This review is from 2009

Review by Steve Bennett

This is a tricky gig, that’s for sure. Just half a dozen of us sit in the audience, scattered around the room. How do you perform to that?

Eleanor Tiernan’s solution is to pretend it isn’t happening; she stares into the void as if it were full of people and delivers with the same forced rhythm as she would if she was trying to get the material out through a rowdy pub gig; building up the energy and pace of each routine, then stopping dead with a sudden pause where the laugh ought to be, but very often isn’t. It seems quite a strange experience for audience and comedian alike, no one knowing quite how to behave.

There are a couple of gags to kick us off, with her suggestion of how to tell if you’re an alcoholic being particularly inspired, before we ease into her extended anecdotes, where the results are decidedly less assured..

Her recollection of a gig in Dublin’s Mountjoy women’s prison, doesn’t yield much; while the tale of her buying a wheelchair on eBay starts with a few jokes, but trickles away into a dull, uninsightful story of travelling from Ireland to Brighton in it, about which genuine wheelchair users might rightly ponder what she was trying to prove. Likewise, her trip to see a clearly troubled friend in the States is high on incident, short on laughs. The pattern keeps repeating.

Promising ideas sometimes bristle beneath the surface – the Irish needlessly beating themselves up over their supposed ‘decadence’ during the boom years of the Celtic Tiger, or the way people in new relationships over-sentimentalise every trivial shared moment – but never quite hit home.

Tiernan has a warm, engaging way about her, despite that delivery which seems so forced in so small a room, and having seen her in different situations, I’m sure she’s a better comic than this show would suggest. But the hour seems a stretch for her, at least at this stage in her career.

Review date: 21 Aug 2009
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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