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The Freewheelin' Cariad Lloyd – Edinburgh Festival review
An impressive if frenetic second show from character comedy whizz Cariad Lloyd
Phew! Lots to take in in this show. It had the task of containing Cariad Lloyd's pretty bulging skillset and her precocious onstage manner, and I thoroughly enjoyed it, but I would have enjoyed it more if there had been a little breathing space. Such was the wealth of ideas thrown at it – a good problem to have – it tripped over itself on its way to our hearts, arriving finally, but with a few bruises on its knees.
Lloyd is a character comic and improviser of some repute, having been nominated for Best Newcomer last year from the outposts of the Free Fringe, and is one of the circuit's gems with her improv appearances and club work. So her arrival on the paid Fringe comes with higher expectations than most – and in many ways she satisfied them this afternoon.
Her choice of characters was original (a crime-solving Moomin, an Asda/film noir mash-up, a Zooey Deschanel slap-down) and she in fact revelled in obstinately using slightly obscure references. Some she styled out with bravado ("if you know the Moomins, this is very clever; if you don't, we're nearly done"), but sometimes it does seem to alienate the room, as with her faux-TED presentation.
Her audience interaction was finger-clicking quick, and the fourth wall-breaking done charmingly. I really enjoyed the cheeky framing device that poked fun at the festival – a rep from a Fringe watchdog bursts in at the start to announce he is patrolling all comedy shows for any signs of theatre like poignancy or self-reflection. Lloyd was given a 5% quota – which she used up at the beginning – and had to keep it strictly comedy from then on.
Much of the humour came from the ridiculousness of the characters, and Lloyd's effervescent performance. Kitty Romford the Asda girl was the pick for me, who absolutely nailed the "noir aside". Mama Moomin was also a loveable treat, while the cutesy man-manipulator Joey Bechamel is a character that might have really legs, and one that had Lloyd showing some fight. Cockney Sam and Andrew seemed a little undefined, the latter's Shakespeare presentation disappointing a little, but they were enjoyable nonetheless.
What undermined the show for me was there was just too much of everything. The frequent breaking the fourth wall, the little asides and jingle, the interjections to the audience – mostly they are playful and fun, but at times it obscures and confuses, and the frenetic delivery sometimes made things difficult to follow. The crowd seemed to be doing a lot of processing and concentrating, rather than sitting back and just enjoying – which is a shame as Cariad had the whole room onside. Still, I wouldn't want to overstate this – ultimately this is a smart, witty, effervescent show that comes recommended.
Review written by Paul Fleckney