Elf and Duffy: Heist | Edinburgh Fringe comedy review
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Elf and Duffy: Heist

Edinburgh Fringe comedy review

This is a fun, artistic experiment from the ever-creative Elf Lyons and her collaborator Duffy – as well as bringing a touch of much-needed extra accessibility to the Fringe.

Heist is a preposterous tale of derring-do reminiscent of the Pajama Men, acted out primarily in mime and sound effects. It is the most ludicrous baloney about an evil alien testicle-stealing nonce and Elf’s magical vagina being used to rescue hordes of guinea pigs. There are the usual tropes of heist movies: abseiling, car chases and bank vaults guarded by cashiers who become mesmerised to the point of paralysis by the mere sight of a ventriloquist’s dummy. You know, that old cliché…

This is all brought to life by enthusiastic, loose performances full of mischief and Lyons’ impressive sound effects. She’s a one-woman foley desk, recreating everything from the lighting of a cigarette to the agonising squawks of a dying seagull. 

All the dialogue is also signed, as Duffy is deaf, while his game interpreter sits in the front row and vocalises his BSL, which must be quite the challenge given the semi-improvised balderdash they come up with. 

The mimes, big gestures and sign language are all part of something called visual vernacular storytelling, not that you need know anything about that. But the combination brought several deaf audience members to this – and I suspect every – performance of a show that definitely offers some extra jokes for them while never excluding the hearing punters.

With a convoluted plot, the mad surrealism can be hard to engage with fully, so it helps when Lyons reassures us that it is all stuff and nonsense (and for good reason). But the charisma and the chemistry between the two performers is evident, with a one-sided sexual tension all part of the appeal.

This flirtation is established in a charming, funny preamble, which is packed full of inventive elements and great jokes, such as Lyons’ turning to whisper something in her colleague’s ear before realising her mistake and a spiky mockery of a smug self-defined ‘ally’ with a minimal smattering of BSL.

Lyons’ grasp of the language is far better, but still comparatively rudimentary, so Duffy employs the technique of an old improv game to help her out. Though I wonder where she learned to sign if words like ‘nonce’ are in her level 1 vocabulary.

There’s lots of fourth-wall breaking and neither take any of this remotely seriously - as if you could. But while the storyline is slight, their natural interactions are the bedrock, a teasing partnership that makes for a fine double act.

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Review date: 14 Aug 2023
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Monkey Barrel Comedy (The Tron)

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