As entrances go it’s certainly outlandish. Elf Lyons clip-clops onstage as a dressage horse, clattering coconut shells together in classic Monty Python style. A timely Olympic tribute to that noble discipline (it’s not a sport, it’s Bullingdon Club cosplay)? Nope. It’s the introduction to the first in a series of possibly tall-tales about her mother.
Apparently, Elf’s mum always wanted a dressage horse and attempted to enter a competition using her daughter as the horse. Dramatic licence perhaps, but a vivid depiction of an eccentric woman nonetheless. Lyons states in the subtitle of her show that she wants to kill her mother, but there is never any hint of murderous feeling emanating from the stage. Exasperation, yes. Eye-rolling frustration, certainly. But Pelican is a show forged with love above all things.
In an engaging hour that is part theatrical performance and part confessional, Lyons describes her relationship with her mum, ascribing her a multitude of voices. At first, there seems to be no rhyme or reason for this, besides Lyons’ fondness for demonstrating her tin ear for accents. However, it becomes apparent that Lyons is essentially exploring a different facet of her mother’s personality each time. It’s a nice approach that hints at a fractured mental state before she confirms this later on.
The subtext to all of this is how Lyons’ own character has been formed by her relationship with her mercurial mum. Her fondness for performing, her outgoing character, her own mental issues; they’ve all been at least partly down to her being a chip off the old block. Even her onstage candidness regarding her sex life is explained by her needing an outlet, as she was reluctant for her mother to know anything about her amorous adventures.
It’s a fascinating show, deftly juggling larger themes through the prism of her own experiences. There is perhaps a reliance on the repetition of certain jokes – an impersonation of a French ex-lover in particular gets overused – and the flow of that show is occasionally bogged down by her studied theatricality; there are certain parts where a more conversational approach would have paid dividends.
Overall however, Pelican is a thoroughly entertaining show about the push and pull emotions of the mother and daughter relationship, particularly when the artistic temperament comes into play. It’s well worth seeking out, and Elf Lyons is looking like a star in the making.