Irish American Loren O’Brien makes her Edinburgh debut with some skilled character comedy, that, with laudable intentions, has piled on one too many layers.
The set-up is: her sketch partner Amy has ditched her for reasons unspecified (though we can surmise from what transpires). Rather than quit, she muddles through, taking both Amy and Loren’s roles in a comical dramatisation of their lives. Amy, posh English girl, despairs of Loren, a “white Beyoncé”, played dumber and ditzier than the Loren who sets the piece up.
O’Brien has all the voices down pat. Her Amy is uncommonly good, and her various bitchy American girls are pleasingly real. Some of the story is quite sick – paedophilia, incest – though not so it defines the piece. She could certainly take it further if that’s the direction she wanted to go, but she’d have to go for it wholeheartedly. Here it feels like she’s testing the water.
There’s also an amalgam of British and American sensibilities as she unveils her characters’ sex lives. Certain lines play as if they’d have a different effect on a Stateside crowd, but there’s nothing that can’t be ironed out once she has a measure of the audience.
There’s a lot of comedy to be extracted from these well performed characters. The story within a story just becomes a little unwieldy after a while, especially when she breaks into “normal” Loren, not “Loren playing Loren in a sketch” Loren. You can see its purpose – it’s ambitious and shows a respect for Edinburgh audiences – but it’s a little over-elaborate when you’re encountering her for the first time.
There’s no mistaking O’Brien’s ability though. It’d be interesting to see her back here with something easier to digest.