Eleanor Tiernan has become almost the quintessential Free Fringe act, having graced such venues for over a decade now. For the last few years she’s made the Banshee Labyrinth her August home. This consistency extends to her comedy which is light in risk-taking but rich in dexterous little observations of her life. As normal, she mines her life as a single woman approaching middle-age (“I just turned 40. Two years ago.”) for most of her tales. Familiarity doesn’t always have to breed contempt, and Tiernan has a never-ending array of minor discontents and annoyances that will strike a chord with many an audience member.
A particularly entertaining segment is a confessional detailing her addiction to true crime shows. An ironic choice of entertainment she feels, given her residence in a particularly dodgy area of London and her own status as a victim of crime. Okay, so it was a stolen phone and the perpetrator was a young boy instead of a ravening Bundy type, but her point still stands.
Tiernan also touches on her disinterest in the current trend for DNA kits (“I’d rather hear about your dreams,” is quietly, brilliantly brutal) and an almost apologetic diversion into the Stygian quicksand of Brexit, although this turns out to be mercifully brief and she’s amusingly apologetic about not having found a satisfactory segue into the topic as yet. This, however, isn’t the only hint of hesitancy during the show.
There seems to be a curious edginess to Tiernan this afternoon, manifested as a frequently stuttering delivery. This may be down to it still being very early in the run with the rhythms of the material still to be fully settled. It’s true there are may performers whose shows are almost polished, but Tiernan usually comes across as such a relaxed presence. It should be noted that this is technically the last preview day for Enjoying the Spotlight Responsibly, so no doubt any jitters will be ironed out as the Fringe progresses.
There’s no doubt Eleanor Tiernan is a fine comedian. She has a natural Irish cynicism that falls in a constant flux between disgruntlement and wry amusement. With her low-key approach she could however do with a slightly higher hit rate of great punchlines. She does set up a consistent pattern during each section, establishing her credentials as an accomplished storyteller and usually tops each tale off with a genuine zinger, but a few scattered more liberally throughout would be very welcome.