Elf Lyons beautifully embraces chaos in her new comedy musical ChiffChaff, a unique look at economic theory at the Pleasance Dome. If weird is your thing, go see it. If weird isn’t your thing, go see it anyway.
Who goes to the Fringe and doesn’t buy tickets for a one-woman musical about the economy, written and performed by a Lecoq-trained comedienne? Elf Lyons: ChiffChaff captures the essence of the festival perfectly, and definitely does not disappoint in doing so.
The premise of Lyons’ 60-minute piece is to explain as many economics theories as possible in accessible and fun ways. It is born out of her father’s love for the subject and – as it subtly comes out throughout the show – of her love for her father. He is a professor and one of the thing he’s taught her is that before giving a lecture, a good speaker explains everything they’re going to say before they actually ‘say’ it.
So that’s what Elf does: she prepares us for an hour of games, songs and mimes. She hands out toy instruments because she couldn’t afford to pay for the rights of all the songs she needs to use, so we will have to be the orchestra during If I Were A Rich Man. She has a banana ready on the chair for when she will inevitably need to take a break and recharge halfway through the performance. Oh and, by the way, the evening will end with her dressed up as a lion, giving birth to the Earth… Standard.
The structure, the idea, the routines are so cleverly thought and executed, even (and especially) during the moments when things are supposed to “go wrong”. The songs are well-known musical classics (unlike most of the economics theories mentioned in the show); we’re treated to some The Lion King and Chicago, and the tracks alternate with recordings of Elf’s father talking about economics.
There are absurd moments aplenty in ChiffChaff, as it is to be expected. Personal highlights for me were a lap dance with an imaginary person and getting two audience members to compete in a sex doll blowing-up contest in order to prove the games theory. But the show also allows for real, genuine moments, such as a rant about how stressful it is to work in the arts and be happy and please everyone, including yourself and your parents. Sounds familiar to anyone?
In ChiffChaff, Elf Lyons doesn’t control the room – she doesn’t want that, she’s not that kind of comedian. She embraces chaos and loves when things go wild and weird and potentially wrong (for real this time). She doesn’t want to be in control because she knows you can have more fun when there’s the chance to turn an inconvenience into a genuine laugh.
That’s probably my favourite thing about her. Second only to her eyebrows. I could watch Elf Lyons stand in a room moving her eyebrows for an hour. She could do a show just with that (they’re so expressive). When you go see it at the Fringe next year, remember I said it first.