You can’t be shy, she looks each of her audience members in the eye. And you can’t, and probably shouldn’t anyway, be a sexist. And if you’ve come to watch the ballet, you’re in the wrong place. And if you thought you understood Swan Lake, you’re likely to come away thinking ‘what was Tchaikovsky on about?’
I watched Elf Lyons’ comedy show, SWAN, at The Rondo Theatre in Bath, and it was a well spent £12. I can be certain of this as I, a bit dense when it comes to comedy, laughed the whole way through.
Two arms peeked through the wings clutching a talcum powder bottle. The show began with a poof of DIY smoke. The arms slid back behind the curtains and out popped a head with orange pixie hair, followed by the rest of Elf in her knickers and a huge parrot outfit.
In Franglais she told us what we were in for: a one-woman show of Swan Lake in French by an English person dressed in a parrot costume in one hour. Glimpses into her childhood explained the knickers, ‘non Mama, je suis un arteest’, and held true to her word that she is no match for Michael McIntyre’s observation comedy and bad at picking on her audience, ‘you should experiment with colours more.’
The entire show undid the traditional ballet, pointing out how the leads look the same and that the women are pivot pins for the narrative whose ‘baguette’ statures are picked up and moved about the stage by men with socks stuffed down their leggings.
Characters were imagined with store-cupboard items and dressing-up-box props. A huge orange suitcase played a boozy mother; a rubber crocodile hand-puppet the leading Prince Siegfried.
Reminiscent of the original ballet, scenes started at the sound of a whistle, a sleepy technician was reminded ‘play the track’ and multiple party poppers pulled from crevices inside the costume ended the acts with a bang.
I watched SWAN with my two sisters, both of whom said they felt totally empowered watching a woman own her silliness with such autonomy. I was fortunate enough to meet Elf for coffee before the show, where she speculated that some men perhaps find her intimidating and asked one in the audience ‘are you seduced or scared?’ Perhaps both.
Sexy, silly, and maybe a little bit scary, she has the sexual confidence of a woman and the innocence of a child.
By the end you will know Swan Lake inside out (but more upside-down) and you’ll wonder how you understood every word and if you’re actually just really good at French.
Catch the ✮ Edinburgh Festival Best Show Nominee ✮ SWAN before it finishes in May.
For more information on SWAN and other gigs visit: www.theelflyons.com