There may be many that may be put off by the extreme material of Lou Conran’s show. Where can the humour possibly be found in a stillbirth? Surely one of the most traumatic experiences a human being can go through, yet Conran has channelled all her pain into a cathartic hour of wonderful storytelling that is as uplifting as it is harrowing.
Her tragedy is saved for the latter part of the tale, and is all the more powerful for the expert build-up. She sketches her life in rich detail, creating vivid images of the characters in her life, like her friend “Jenny on the In-Breath,” who never seems to exhale. She’s brutally honest about almost every aspect of her life; occasionally even explicit. There’s a brilliant frankness about her approach to comedy; earthy and potty-mouthed, warm and bawdy.
The tale of the mostly disastrous sexual encounter that led to her pregnancy, just as she was heading into her forties and believing any chance of conception was over, is recited with all kinds of ripe, juicy and hilarious detail. It makes what is to come all the more heart-wrenching. The switch in tone comes abruptly and Conran’s eyes brim with raw emotion. Five months into the pregnancy she found out her baby hadn’t developed properly and couldn’t possibly survive. The baby arrived stillborn after an induced labour. Even knowing the subject of the show in advance doesn’t prepare you for the hammer force of it. It’s due in part to the theme, but also to Conran’s storytelling. She knows when to be candid, and when to let a moment of silent reflection speak volumes.
This is a story told with bravery, candour and wit. It’s true that after she recounts the terrible ordeal a lot of the laughs are irretrievably sucked into the sadness. It’s completely understandable that this is the case, and Conran does manage to mine nuggets of desperate humour as she recounts the way she coped in the immediate aftermath and the months since. I Love Lou C is ever so slightly unbalanced as a result, but the sheer power of the story and the way it’s delivered more than overcome this slight structural polarity.