Helen Keen (2 stars)

This article is from 2009.

Helen Keen

Underwhelming guide to Arctic survival

It’s not often that a bibliography of research material is handed out to a comedy audience, but this is all part of Helen Keen’s thoughtful show. Keen wants to verify the historic aspects of her Arctic routine, but she has been a little too enthusiastic. The hour’s journey to the North Pole, in which she discusses the hardships of survival with added decoration of props, is so light in jokes it comes across as a well-meaning children’s show.

Keen’s ancestor, Charles Overy Cobb, travelled to the Arctic in the 19th century in what turned into a treacherous and deadly journey. She is able to recount episodes of the ship’s adventures from the published journal of the on-board doctor, yet the events are told in a factual rather than dramatic manner and Keen’s gentle storytelling style makes even cannibalism sound like a jaunt in the park. The result is a survival guide which falls between funny comedy and interesting history, whilst not fully satisfying either. Asides in literary humour prove a saving grace for Keen, in an otherwise underwhelming show.

Gilded Balloon Teviot, 622 6552, until 31 Aug, 12.45pm, £9 (£8).

Helen Keen: The Primitive Methodist Guide to Arctic Survival

  • 2 stars

A show which celebrates the extraordinary heroism of some very ordinary men as they struggled to survive spectacular physical hardship and return to the warmth of Hull (imagine!). In 1866, the whaling ship Diana became trapped in the Arctic - frozen into an ice floe where she remained throughout the cruel winter. Helen's…

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