Under the sweet, smiling charm of Elf Lyons’ cool demeanour lies unspeakable horror. She could be your child’s favourite teacher at primary school but – no doubt like many primary school teachers – there is a darkness that lies beneath. In her new show, Raven, she draws on her skills and background as a clown to explore the horror of everyday life – to unsettling and hilarious effect.
The inspiration for Raven is her love of the stories of Stephen King and, like her hero, she understands the power of childhood fears. From the monster in the toilet bowl to the foot-grabbing ghoul under the bed, she captures the very real terrors of being a small child. Some of those fears are very relatable – the half-glimpsed figure at the end of a poorly lit corridor – while others are all hers thanks to a premature viewing of R-rated horror film Hollow Man.
This is no cosy ghost story told beside a roaring fire – it’s a provocative piece of physical theatre performed beside a scary mutilated doll. Like Lyons’ previous shows such as the magnificent Swan, Raven is frank and confrontational. Nobody escapes the rage lurking inside her, including a bemused critic, but the incipient violence is balanced with humour and outright silliness. Horror and comedy may seem strange bedfellows but Lyons shows they are both useful weapons for confronting the traumas and trials of our lives.
Elf Lyons: Raven runs at Gilded Balloon Teviot at Edinburgh Fringe to 29 August 2022 and on tour, including Soho Theatre in London from 27 October to 5 November 2022. Tickets at edfringe.com and sohotheatre.com.