Review by Daz Gale
The sudden availability of the Lyric theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue has given rise to shows that may not have otherwise had a chance to play such a major West End stage. As part of this, “A Queer Season In The West End” has taken up residency for a short run featuring a double bill of two new pieces of work which both received rave reviews at the Edinburgh Fringe festival. Playing alongside each other each evening, I went along to catch both shows which feature similarities in themes and storytelling. You can have a look at my review of Boy Out The City, but for now, what was my verdict on Lauryn Redding’s Bloody Elle?
First seen in 2021 at The Royal Exchange Theatre, Bloody Elle tells the story of the titular Elle, a working-class girl from the North of England, whose life is transformed when she meets Eve. As she falls in love and discovers her own identity, we watch Elle as she embarks on a journey that will lead her to embrace her authentic self in an exploration of love, class, shame, and beauty.
As with Boy Out The City, which follows Bloody Elle at the Lyric each evening, both shows share a couple of similar threads – the queer story, the theme of gay shame that is prevalent throughout both being two of them. As well as them, they also share a knack for incredible storytelling with Lauryn Redding proving herself to be a powerhouse performer with her ability to bring a story to life in a way that connects beautifully and leaves a lasting impression.
As a performer, Lauryn is a marvel to witness. In a performance that is often playful, she winks and sticks her tongue out to punctuate moments in her delivery giving a personable approach that makes it impossible to not fall in love with her. These playful moments at times give way to more serious ones as the character of Elle faces a setback or deals with a situation that requires a different tactic. It is Lauryn’s remarkable ability to flit back and forth to these seriously contrasting approaches that make her performance so impressive to witness.
The way Lauryn plays every character is another testament to her talents – from the two main characters of Eve and Elle to the weird and wonderful supporting characters who make up her work and home life, there is never any doubt about who she is playing with each having their own distinctive tendencies. While this requires Lauryn to have conversations with herself, this never comes across as cheesy and only goes to highlight her versatility as a performer.
Billed as a gig musical, the music in Bloody Elle is created live on stage through some clever tricks involving loops. With the help of some people backstage to amplify the magic, Lauryn demonstrates another string to her bow as she sings, plays instruments (both real and imaginary), and creates the songs all while never missing a beat in the story. Awe-inspiring to witness, this created another element that made this show so exceptional in its own right.
As impressive as Lauryn is as a performer, her writing is equally outstanding. A beautiful story that is more than just a simple love story, it is also about self-love, acceptance, and what coming out actually involves. The way this is portrayed through the writing is exemplary and created a show that had the power to make you laugh then move you to tears in an instant. It is the masterful way the storytelling was demonstrated that makes Bloody Elle such a phenomenal watch with all 95 minutes and one act flying by like no time has passed at all.
It is the combination of Lauryn as a writer and performer that makes Bloody Elle such a captivating watch. No bells and whistles are required when you have such an impeccable storyteller on hand, with Bryony Shanahan’s direction bringing the story to life through inspired choices. The way the story and its overarching themes easily connect with the audience is a testament to both the writing and the audience, creating a beautiful show which many in the audience will be able to relate to Seeing this representation on stage in both Bloody Elle and Boy Out The City was a truly wonderful thing to experience – I hope there is a lot more shows like this to come in the future.
Going back to Bloody Elle specifically, it really is something special. Accessible in its themes no matter how much you can relate to it and refreshing in its approach to the narrative and how it is used through music. It isn’t hard to see why feedback for this show previously was so overwhelmingly positive – in Bloody Elle, Lauryn has created something incredible which I’m sure will continue to amaze and inspire audiences in the years to come.
Bloody Elle plays at the Lyric Theatre until 30th September. Tickets from nimaxtheatres.com