Elf Lyons – Being Barbarella

If you’re wondering where the sex went, Elf has it. Well, she wants to have it. Emerging in a puff of talcum powder, space walking in a brilliant silver space suit on crutches (the result of a harrowing beach incident) Elf quickly launches herself, and her audience, into a fantastically quirky, weird and wonderful world of sex, feminist sharks, dressage horses and grinding. Inspired by the 1960s cult classic, Elf is a twenty-three-and-three-quarter-year-old who would not only make ‘a beautiful ex-wife’, but wants to empower herself and other women through the influence of the enigmatic, wildly sexy Barbarella. Barbarella is not, as Elf so passionately argues, dismissive soft-core porn for the male-gaze: Barbarella is a sexually independent, confident, pleasure seeking feminist heroine. Elf takes this stance as her launching point to proceed to reveal, in a delightful self-deprecating manner, her own experiences with sex, men and empowerment. Stories including a hilarious tale of her younger brother’s encounter with an empowered, young Barbarella-esque girl, her cringe worthy (and perhaps painfully close to home for more than a few of us) school experiences, and her favourite new game, Tinder, reveal her keen eye for detail while making her endearing and completely relatable. Elf makes the tiny space of the Producer’s Cranny her own with such energy that for most of the show I’d completely forgotten that she’d broken her foot. Despite this, she performed with vivacity, hopping and dancing around as she revealed how she came to be known as ‘the Grinder’ and ‘the most demure slag in history’ (‘I’m not demure!’)

Elf is craftily political, touching on a range of issues from prostitution laws to shark preservation, the UK’s pornography regulations and the sexualisation of women, and yet she is never even remotely preachy. Even excerpts from her erotic fiction (for people who love sex and love a budget) manages to brilliantly and good-naturedly mock hipster millennial’s penchant for hummus and beards while drawing attention to what it means to belong to this particular zeitgeist of underemployed, disillusioned twenty-somethings in a way that is charged with wit and observational detail—so much so that I came to wonder how she’d managed to uncannily channel so many details of my last relationship! Elf demonstrates what it means to be the voice of a generation, summing up so pointedly and yet wonderfully comically the experiences, opinions and concerns of people very much like me—a mid-twenties, liberal (no, not in the LNP sense!), eco-conscious, modern feminist. And she does it with so much zeal, so much enthusiasm—her big wild eyes constantly searching her audience—that you so enthusiastically fall under her slightly awkward, sexy, nerdy spell.      Elf is brilliant. She is engaging, spritely, totally endearing, and wonderfully funny. Watch out for her (as I will be, awkwardly clutching an apple cider from between some ferns at the Fringe Club), because she’s going to be big! Elf Lyons is my new favourite thing.


This review originally appeared in Dirt & Candy