Edinburgh 2022 was the hardest month for almost all artists who went up this year. Well done everyone! We did it! Somehow!
This month was incredibly tough (memory loss and a head trauma is a real headache) and none the less I am really proud of myself for making my best show, despite bonkers circumstances. I could not have done it without the love of some amazing people both in 'the biz' and outside of it. Thank you Jak, Ian and all the team at Gilded Balloon. Thank you to all the superb team at Mick Perrin Management. It feels good to walk away from this Edinburgh feeling like an artist - when at some points this year whilst working I really didn't feel like one anymore.
This month I have felt really loved by so many incredible people. It is amazing to know so many talented, kind creatives who create risk taking work, try shit out and are bloody lush and supportive to others. The clowns at Edinburgh absolutely destroyed this festival! The alternative scene is alive and strong and the clowns are paving the way with new and absurdist work. Well done team!
I am now in no way exhausted and CANNOT WAIT to wake up at 6am tomorrow morning to go back to full time secondary school teaching and begin taking my Year 10s through the GCSE curriculum.
I am taking Raven on tour this October during my half term, would mean loads if you could come.
In the mean time, here are some cool reviews of the show...
NOMINATED - British Comedy Guide's Comedians' Choice Awards - BEST SHOW
★★★★★ The Telegraph
Review by Dominic Cavendish
“This show has been described as a lot to unpack!!”, pretend-yells Elf Lyons at the start of an hour that would indeed take weeks fully to anatomise and celebrate. Superficially, it’s a fairly straightforward “sell”: a food-blender whirl of horror and comedy, using Stephen King (50 of whose books she says she has read) as a recurrent reference-point and even template for flesh-creeping stories of her own, drawn and embellished from real life. Specifically, she’s following in the footsteps of his collection Nightmares and Dreamscapes, the introduction of which she sinisterly-hilariously lip-syncs to early on.
But that only gives the ghost of an explanation as to what unfolds, as she imparts various tales and traumas, rounded off with recapping (frankly brilliant) interpretative dances. She revisits the fear of the dark she was left with after watching the horror film Hollow Man with her grandfather – at the age of nine! – and a night-time corridor trip to the toilet at boarding-school that was like something of The Shining. By turns affable-sweet and starey-scary, conversational and shouty (with sound-effect screams for good measure), she plays havoc with your sense of comfort, and what’s at stake.
“Tonight in this show I will be cutting off your dicks, through smashing up a lot of fruit and vegetables,” Lyons warns her audience; and be advised, the show – something like a feminist exorcism – is designed to give you the willies. Threaded through it all is an homage to the French “master clown” Philippe Gaulier (who taught her, please note, the art of “Bouffon” – Google it) and advised her, “When you’re a monster, that is when you are beautiful.” If this still doesn’t make much sense (and I haven't yet explained the title, attributable to her mother) don’t blame my ineptitude, praise her genius – and go. DC
★★★★★ Edinburgh Fringe Guide
Review by Erin Roche
Teacher by day, buffoon ablaze by night Elf Lyons and her 2022 Edinburgh Fringe show, Raven, is an unadulterated trumpet blast of brilliance.
Elf Lyons: Raven is the volume at which you scream in the car when no one can hear you.
Elf Lyons: Raven is the slushie you dare to throw on the cat-caller’s windshield.
Elf Lyons: Raven is the female gaze, fury and fun personified.
In a fearless, magical display of feral delights, Elf Lyons: Raven presents as a majorly Stephen King-inspired collection of autobiographical short stories woven with comedy, harrowing truths and characters that range from guttural to girlish. She calls her work “vexed clown”, which is accurate, her performance like a divine, absurd concoction of Kate Bush, delicious vengeance à la Hard Candy and Death Proof and the unbridled glee of a food fight in the school cafeteria.
With the reckless abandon of a human catapult, Lyons slingshots her brain’s unique brand of hilarity and horror, drummed up from a childhood of traumatic boarding school experiences and a steady diet of classic and cult horror films, onto the stage for what can only be described as cathartic, euphoric madness that cuts up real-life mess and makes it into a sticky scrapbook of silliness. Jesting through vignettes that sharply send up the pick-me-girls, the creeps-on-the-train and the abusive teachers too many women in the audience will, sadly, find as familiar characters in their own lives, Lyons takes their stingers out with all the inspiring wackiness one can muster. Comedy is a supreme coping mechanism, don’t you think?
The roars and hysterics from the audience affirm it: this swirling anthology of spooks and stand up comedy is the epitome of everything that the Edinburgh Fringe is its very best. At the finale of this 24 Aug performance, I, having sat at the stage left corner of the splash zone, covered myself with a shield of plastic (handed to me with a, “You’ll need this”) and howled my face off until I was wheezing for laughter. I left reeling, empowered and electrified. Come find out why - if you miss Elf Lyons, you do so at your own peril.
★★★★ - Chortle
Review by Steve Bennett
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.
★★★★ - Starburst Magazine
Review by Ed Fortune
Comedy is hard to do in any format especially horror comedy. Elf Lyon’s show Raven is a one-women siege on the entire genre, a bombastic and highly skilled affair that is completely fascinating throughout, and utterly bizarre.
Raven is a semi auto-biographical scream into the darkness, but with jokes. Elf Lyons tells a tale of both modern and childhood fears, framed in such a way that it’s also an homage to the work of Stephen King. They are a great many references to the Master of Horror’s work throughout the show, so much so that even regular Starburst readers won’t catch every single one.
All of this is emphasised by Elf Lyon’s magnetic physical presence; The performer graduated from the École Philippe Gaulier (a world famous clown school) and studied Bouffon, a sort of inverted, dark version of the clown. This skill, training and physicality forms a key part of the performance and the narrative. And yes, Stephen King’s IT gets referenced more than once.
It is very funny, very powerful and in places, utterly heart-wrenching. They are also plenty of jokes at the expense of overly proud men, people who own tiny dogs and talk too much on the train, a certain ubiquitous Hollywood actor and the reality of simply getting older but not wiser. In places, it’s simply flat out weird; they are elements of Lyon’s performance that’ll you will either connect with or become immediately lost.
It gets messy at some points, in every sense of the word, but every element of this show is cleverly and thoughtfully considered. Lyon’s physicality puts her in complete control throughout as she performs this seemingly unhinged and gloriously weird show. It’s quite frankly mesmerising.
This is a bold, ambitious show that clearly has required a lot of skill, time and effort to put together. If you like horror and you like strange but funny shows, then you should seek this out.