Following her sold out run at last year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe, 2017’s Edinburgh Comedy Award Best Show Nominee Elf Lyons hits the road with her new show Love Songs to Guinea Pigs.
It focuses on her experiences last year, when she was told her health problems meant she may never be able to perform again. After months spent lying on her back and being wheeled in and out of MRI machines, Elf had to rethink how to get back to the stage. Inspiration struck, and Love Songs to Guinea Pigs was born.
It’s a surreal tale of love and loneliness, embodying her inner Katherine Hepburn through an absurd narrative of heartbreak and love with live music, terrible mime, silly characters, enthusiastic accents and entirely true stories. This is Brief Encounter, but with rodents.
As the show heads to Brighton’s Komedia on Weds 9 Oct, we hooked up with Elf to find out a little bit more.
How are the guinea pigs?
Ian McCulloch is apparently ‘too fat’ which I consider to be completely body-shaming by the vet. He is not fat, he is just big boned… and a big eater… and massive. He resembles a furry Ewok rugby ball. Clara Cupcakes is still working out who she is and what the hell is going on. Bless her. She’s not a thinker but she is a very pretty little mop.
How much did your training help when reassessing how you could present yourself onstage?
So much – having an understanding of choreography, slapstick and the basic fundamentals of how to move your body and displace it in different ways is integral for me so that I can improvise and be silly on stage without doing some proper harm to my body! Never underestimate the power of doing some proper stretches and warm-ups pre show!
Has the experience taught you any valuable lessons?
Sometimes it is good to say ‘No’ and not do every gig and every job that comes your way. It is integral to spend as much time as you can asleep in your bed. Treat yourself the way you would advise your friends to treat themselves – with kindness.
What do you hope people will take away from the show?
New stomach muscles from laughing and a lot of hope and joy. And a desire to rescues some guinea pigs…
Does humour work to soften difficult or complex subject matter?
Hells yeah. Gallows humour, anecdotal humour, observational, slapstick etc etc – they are all siblings that link together to help us find our way around topics in our lives that we are having trouble accessing and finding the language to talk about. When shit hits the fan sometimes the best thing to do is tell a stupid joke or do a silly dance. It helps us communicate and find common ground in times of stress and trauma.
The comedy circuit has always been perceived as a challenging environment, but are conditions improving for performers?
Very much so. Through the rise in awareness of mental health issues – in both men and women – comics and those in the industry are more open than ever to talk about their feelings, their problems with the industry. People are less afraid to be vulnerable. There is such a large collective of people in the industry working together to improve working conditions so it is a healthy and safe space to be.
Do you ever fear being misunderstood?
Jā. visu laiku. Ανησυχώ ότι δεν έχω νόημα…
Elf Lyons’ Love Songs to Guinea Pigs comes to Brighton’s Komedia on Weds 9 Oct 2019