Sonya Kelly’s hilarious and touching autobiographical account of falling love with Australian stage manager Kate rounds off a terrific year of solo performances in the Soho Theatre’s Upstairs Studio. Hugely impressive in their consistency, they’ve just kept coming, each distinctively different, but each exuding quality.
Kelly’s How To Keep An Alien runs absolutely true to this Soho gold standard. First seen last year on the Dublin Fringe, later in Edinburgh, Kelly turns out to be a gleeful, self deprecating original with a sense of humour that always sees the absurdity of things even when cursing the hoops she and Kate are forced to jump through to prove they are a couple and gain Kate’s right to remain in Ireland – a country as Kelly balefully puts it, `where sunshine is only a rumour.’
Why would anyone want to substitute sun for boggy Irish rain? Kate does and the couple’s journey to their eureka moment when her visa is granted produces 75 minutes of non-stop chuckles as well as haunting connections to Kate’s great, great Irish grand-mother, Ann Flanagan, forced into Australian exile when turned off her land in County Offaly.
Ann’s loving letters to her parents in the mid-19th century and descriptions of the long and arduous voyage to her new country are a keen reminder – as if we needed it in the current climate – of the hardships endured by emigrés. Sonya apart, Kate’s family connection is one reason why Kate prefers Dublin over Queensland. She feels at home in Ireland.
But their road to success is a bumpy, frustrating if often spirited one. `A fling with an alien becomes a thing with an alien becomes a ring with an alien becomes a cling with an alien’, is Sonya’s witty summing up of the warmth of the welcome bestowed on her when she visits Kate in Oz. `Fifty-seven relatives in twenty-five days’.
Gina Moxley’s production, too, cleverly mixes moods with Justin Murphy’s on-stage Stage Manager providing a delightfully dry cocktail of sound and light cues and himself in various guises, not least bored, intransigent immigration officials.
All round, a tonic, without the bitters.
How To Keep An Alien runs at Soho Theatre Upstairs to Dec 19, 2015
Review first published in Reviewsgate, Dec 2015