Some comedians tell gags. Some observe the absurdities of life, which are often stranger than fiction. And then there are those who draw upon personal experiences, which are paradoxically universally-relatable. In the case of Lou Conran, it’s a case of “all of the above” as she takes a light-hearted look at being a woman “who is not in her 20s and 30s anymore”.
Conran gently broaches this subject by comparing presents she received on birthdays years ago to those she’s been given recently. I think it’s fair to say that the ‘mature’ presents that are first mentioned are not ‘exciting’, but utilitarian in nature. In any case, all have a practical use with a funny anecdote attached to each. It is, however, the fertility test that sets the ball rolling in terms of the rest of the act and Conran’s own response to the ‘countdown’.
A visit to a fertility clinic and its ‘clientele’ is the wake-up call ‘needed’, showing Conran that she doesn’t want to be pressured into accepting ‘any old sperm’, just because her ‘biological clock is ticking’. As luck would have it, she ends up getting pregnant naturally – though considering how ‘messy’ the conception was, perhaps it was sod’s law that the pregnancy doesn’t go to plan.
The best comedians make the delivery of their material seem spontaneous and easy. Within her tale, Conran juggles four separate threads simultaneously that are all tangential to the core of the show – the paper-thin walls of her flat, her neighbour’s sex life, her own sex life (real and ‘imagined’) and a trip to Boots that bookends the show. Much like the fabled Ouroboros, the show in a sense has no ‘beginning’ or ‘end’, but within its ‘middle’ there is certainly something meaningful.
It is, however, about three-quarters of the way through the act that the most heart-rending part of Conran’s tale is shared – regarding the events that led to losing her baby. It is simply told, without embellishment. For the previous 40 minutes, the audience laughs with her about her life – the one she would like and the one she actually has. Because of the time spent ‘getting to know her’ and the rapport built with the audience, her disclosure cuts much deeper because of the mutual empathy.
Of course, just like in Conran’s original circumstances, she tries to comfort those around her (rather than the other way around) and reassures them it’s okay to feel whatever they’re feeling. By deftly talking about such a personal and intimate subject matter, Conran strips away the taboo that society has about acknowledging baby loss and how to process such a traumatic event. On the strength of this show, I don’t think there’s any subject that’s too difficult for Conran to tackle with her sprinkling of wit and sensitivity.
I’ll certainly keep an eye out for Conran’s new material this summer in Edinburgh.
© Michael Davis 2018
I Love Lou C ran at Soho Theatre on 29th and 30th May.