Review – Laura Solon: The Owl of Steven, Pleasance Courtyard

Laura Solon
I find Laura Solon’s comedy to be really rather strange. Now Ms Solon is, of course, quite within her rights to respond along the lines of “Silence blogger! I once won the Perrier, so I’ll tell you what is and isn’t strange in the world of comedy!” – but bear with me.

For those who don’t know, Solon’s stand up isn’t really stand up – it’s more funny storytelling, where jokes come about through a structured narrative in which all the parts and the narrator are performed by Solon herself. According to Wikipedia (which is always right) this came about when her Fringe performance partner in 2005 dropped out and she had to do the show alone. She went on to win the Perrier, a show in the West End, £7,500 prize money and a career in professional comedy. History (well, wikipedia) doesn’t record what happened to the guy who was going to join her but didn’t.

You can see this two ways: either Solon is a pioneer who is breaking out of the rigid confines of the anecdote/punchline comic paradigm; or, she is just telling stories populated entirely with outlandish characters and funny voices.

This year’s story is all about an American model turned journalist who visits the island of Steven as part of a documentary crew seeking the island’s famous owl. Many funny voiced comic situations ensue.

There’s a level of conscious artifice in Solon’s work that makes it difficult to fully engage with: the characters we meet on Steven are entertaining certainly and there are plenty of nicely observed jokes, but for me things never really took off because they remain manifestly and transparently fictional.

It’s clearly naive to imagine that comics really spend their days doing the things they later relate on stage, and wrong headed to claim that fiction can’t be comedy: but what you have with most stand-up and don’t have with Solon is the opportunity to suspend disbelief and share in what makes comedy such a joy: the chance at seeing the world through the eyes of another person.

I’m nit picking. Solon is very funny. She’s funnier than almost anybody you or I will ever meet. She is funnier than most comics around, and certainly funnier than most comics at the fringe. But for me the narrative style of her comedy is distancing, which means that for me thus style will always be good, not great.

4 stars