A kitchen table set with teacups, hot dogs and a packet of milkshake provides the focal point to Alison Larkin's show The English American. It looks like the Mad Hatter's Tea Party if he had decided to cut corners and go for a TV dinner instead.
Indeed, "mad hatter" is an apt description of Larkin, who guides the audience through this comedy of dual identity with the zeal of one of those people at parties that try and get you to dance against your will. The upside of this approach is that the proceedings are brisk and you almost might not notice that the set pieces don't hang together too well.
Larkin is very much still the girl from the home counties and it is intriguing to work out how she came to strut her stuff with Willy Parsons and Andrew "Dice" Clay at the Los Angeles Comedy Store, which, as she points out, is the equivalent of being billed with Bernard Manning and Roy "Chubby" Brown. Yet none of what she tells us about herself nor her material could totally clear that jump up in my mind.
Nevertheless, it did happen and suggests that Larkin, who trained as an actress over here before establishing herself as a stand-up comic and comedy writer in the US, is a versatile performer and a tough cookie. However, while there is no denying her energy and effort to engage with the audience, Larkin isn't versatile enough in this show to fully colour the routines of her own character, her prissy adopted English mother and her pop-psychologist American birth mother.
She uses a few obvious comedy targets such as the paradox of the The "World" Series; there is a nice take on the fads that West Coast Americans are so fond of and, taking advantage of Americans in the front row, an amusing routine encouraging them to succumb to the dubious pleasures of Page Three. Deeper forays into the "special relationship" between the US and the UK are lacking - disappointing, given the current political climate.
All in all, The English American is an erratic effort and towards the end you feel like you are privy to a therapy session for post-adoption trauma.
"Irish blood, English heart, this I'm made of, there is no one in life I'm afraid of," Morrissey sings on his current comeback single. Larkin sings from the same songbook, telling us that her mixed roots have made her what she is today. Of course, the difference is that we indulge the cathartic process of the Morrisseys of this world, people who are famous, miserable and funny.
Larkin is neither miserable nor famous yet. As for funny, British audiences would need to see more material and less analysis to decide.
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