Reviews Edinburgh Published 9 August 2015

How To Keep an Alien

Traverse Theatre ⋄ 6th-30th August 2015

A paper trail.

Natasha Tripney

Love doesn’t fit well in a ring-binder, reduced to a stack of receipts and plane tickets, a record of transactions, hours logged. It’s not meant to be condensed in that way, scrutinised and picked over. But this is exactly what theatre-maker Sonya Kelly had to do. Having fallen in love with an Australian stage manager, while making what sounds like a fairly ropey show together,  the couple had to open up their relationship for inspection by the Garda National Immigration Bureau in order to prevent her partner from being deported from Ireland after her visa expired. Everything must be filed and charted if they are to stand a chance of staying together.

This is a show with a huge heart, one still very much in love with love. (For me, it ended up forming one of those interesting accidental double bills the Fringe so often throws up, this time with James Fritz’s Ross and Rachel – from the first blush of love to its splintering).

Kelly is obliged to compile a file on their relationship, to treat it like a project, like a huge immoveable solid thing, before she’s even met her partner’s family. How do you maintain a relationship when you start to think of it in those terms? To treat every shared meal, every meeting as proof of permanence? Doesn’t the very process of documentation change things?

Kelly shares the stage with Justin Murphy, who also doubles as the production’s stage manager, a device that turns an autobiographical show into a dialogue and allows for plenty of humour and digression – including a lovely a rendition of Bright Eyes by Murphy. It’s a solo show performed by two people just as Ross and Rachel is a dialogue performed by one person.  Gina Moxley’s production for Rough Magic is warm and funny, full of wit and warmth, but it also says something interesting about borders, geographic and emotional both, as well as the act of making work drawn from a person’s own experiences. By taking this further step down the line of documentation, by turning her relationship, their story, into a piece of performance, she is translating it again, pinning it down, on her terms this time.

The staging is slick, using projections and photographs, to give further shape to things, and though there are times when it does feel slightly over-stretched as a piece, tugged a little too thin, Kelly’s easy way on the stage and the humour and sheer good cheer of the piece make it a pleasure to watch.


Natasha Tripney

Natasha co-founded Exeunt in 2011 and was editor until 2016. She's now lead critic and reviews editor for The Stage, and has written about theatre and the arts for the Guardian, Time Out, the Independent, Lonely Planet and Tortoise.

How To Keep an Alien Show Info

Produced by Rough Magic /Soho Theatre

Directed by Gina Moxley

Written by Sonya Kelly

Cast includes Sonya Kelly, Justin Murphy



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