Fringe Review: Lovecraft (Not the Sex Shop in Cardiff)

Should you be looking for Fringe entertainment which considers biochemistry, neuroanatomy, the effects of neurotransmitters, and why loneliness can kill, this is your show. 

Smart humour

Reviewed at The Howling Owl on 26 February 2019

Presented by Carys Eleri

Should you be looking for Fringe entertainment which considers biochemistry, neuroanatomy, the effects of neurotransmitters, and why loneliness can kill, this is your show.  Lovingly crafted by Carys Eleri, a lively 36-year-old Welsh woman with a broad range of comedic faces, a fine voice and an enquiring mind, Lovecraft… is an excellent example of how good a performance can be when properly funded to succeed. On the well-designed handout given to the audience, we see acknowledgement of the Wales Millenium Centre as co-producer.  We also see listed a director (Mared Swain), a music producer, an animation designer, a costume designer, a lighting designer, a productions stage manager, a dramaturg (hooray!), three scientific advisers and an exec producer.   Yes, Ms Eleri researched, wrote and performed the words and music of this production, but she has had a breadth of expert assistance in bringing her artistic vision to life.  And it shows, in the joyous finesse of this production.

In black t-shirt, colourful skirt, spangled fanny pack, blindingly sequinned shoes and a shock of wavy dark hair, Eleri stands at the entrance and greets everyone with a hug.  When the show’s over, she’s at the exit doing ditto.  In between, she presents an entertaining, intellectually respectable, energetic hour of rueful storytelling, highly memorable biochem. education, and a bunch of songs and raps.  What’s more, she’s a fan of Haigh’s chocolate.  What’s not to like?

She tells us about her disastrous relationships, but instead of simply bewailing them, as most comics do, she describes the terrible neurotransmitter muddle in the love-sick brain, and makes oxytocin (our happy huggy drug), serotonin, beta endorphins (the body’s natural heroin), and dopamine the real authors of her joys and distresses. She explains how stress inevitably produces cortisol. She warns of killjoy noradrenaline and its effects, laughs about testosterone, and reminds us that cocaine and chocolate hit the same pleasure areas of the brain as does love. As a science geek myself, I’m happy to attest to her factual accuracy.

Smart direction ensures that the pace never flags, as Eleri employs slides to artfully reinforce her message, with beautifully synchronised music, comic animations, screenshots of references from “New Scientist” and the NHS website, and a dire Tinder sequence. Her personification of the amygdala as an almond-shaped amiable Greek woman who hands out helpful Post-it notes is an example of her artful melding of science, situation and humour. Although her voice (in speech and song) is of excellent quality throughout, she reveals serious singing skills in her “Tit montage”. She is funny without being destructive, intellectually smart without being didactic, and entertaining because she has the knack of including everyone in the room while never embarrassing or belittling anyone.

The basis of her show derives from a “New Scientist” article which offered proof that loneliness is as capable of killing people as is smoking or unwise food overindulgences. She urges everyone to keep an eye out for the lonely within our society, and make an effort to include them in our activities.  It is Eleri’s genius that she does this sincerely, and without sounding as if she is preaching to us. True art.

Reviewed by Pat. H. Wilson

Venue:  The Howling Owl
Season:  26th February – 2nd March, 2019
Duration:  60 minutes
Tickets:  $30 / $25



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