Elf Lyons: Raven | Edinburgh Fringe comedy review
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Elf Lyons: Raven

Edinburgh Fringe comedy review

Raven ends with the most remarkable scene, with performance powerhouse Elf Lyons expelling the anger she has kept repressed for years in one wild, messy, cathartic orgy of destruction that’s both terrifying and hilarious in its unhinged frenzy.

It is the perfect, mesmerising culmination of an hour that lives in the space comedy and horror share, both relying on building tension and then releasing it with a shocking disturbance of the norm. 

Raven is artfully presented as a collection of horror stories inspired by Stephen King’s prolific output – but clearly based in the autobiographical as she recalls the monsters that haunted her from a young age. The most telling reference is to It, in which children defeat a bogeyman the adults could not see.

In the first story, we meet her artistic mother, too otherworldly to concern herself with such mundane responsibilities as making sure her kids went to school, and her strange grandfather, who allowed nine-year-old Elf to watch a horror film that traumatised her. The sketch showcases her character comedy skills, able to switch on an accent – or terrifying voice from hell – in the blink of an eye.

It culminates in an intense, provocative dance, inappropriately sexy since it is supposedly being performed by a child, as Lyons constantly reminds us, while showcasing her uniquely rangy physicality.

We hear, too, about her days in a boarding school more creepy than The Overlook Hotel, with reminders of mortality in every dormitory. Lyons is masterly at evoking the eerie air, building foreboding with her descriptive narrative and acting out the tensions she felt as she walked the dark, deserted corridors, windows rattling in the wind. What monsters lurk in the shadows here? More importantly, what devils lurk in the staff room?

Later, more modern-day ogres also make an appearance, from the annoyingly perky ‘pick me girl’ Lyons had to endure on a train journey to the sexist prig in his convertible, whom the comic humiliated wonderfully.

He messed with the wrong woman as Lyons’ disruptive streak has been well-developed. She trained at the knee of French theatre professor Philippe Gaulier – not clowning she is keen to stress – but bouffon, the tradition of the court jester, the outsider given permission to mock the powerful. Her grotesque bouffon alter-ego here achieves a victory over the monster who haunted her, defeating her with the powerful tool of mockery. 

The result is a fascinating, compelling, unpredictable piece of art – darkly funny but serious-minded – executed with exceptional skill.

Elf Lyons: Raven is at the Gilded Balloon Teviot at 8.30pm

Review date: 25 Aug 2022
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Gilded Balloon Teviot

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