How To Keep An Alien (4 stars)

This article is from 2015

How To Keep An Alien

Credit: Anthony Woods

Autobiographical comedy on tearing down red tape

Rom-coms are one of the most maligned forms of entertainment, and rightly so: mawkish, predictable and with a burning after-taste of vomit. Irish writer and actor Sonya Kelly agrees, which is why she skewers them here.

Kelly meets and falls in love with 'Kate from Queensland' at just the right time, before 'the moist pearls of a mid-life crisis'. They are in theatre together, generally adapting Gogol plays in English accents. But on-stage drama is as nothing compared to real life, as Kate's visa is quickly running out, and they have to contend with Home Office bureaucracy, dodgy Skype connections and Kelly's tendency towards existentialist angst.

Alongside cheeky co-star Justin Murphy, who milks his moment in the spotlight with a searing karaoke version of ‘Bright Eyes’, Kelly is a vivacious presence, with immense charm. Her lyrical storytelling is lucid and hilarious: even a simple tale of a love letter to Kate on a sandwich bag gains weight, as she desperately fights to keep them together.

Loving the alien is proving a knotty mess, but for once, a heartwarming love story can transcend all cliches – and she does, with heart, smarts and integrity. You can even forgive Bon Jovi in the soundtrack. Almost.

Traverse, 228 1404, until 30 Aug (not 17, 24), times vary, £18 (£8–£13).

How to Keep an Alien

  • 4 stars

Rough Magic in Association With Soho Theatre How to Keep an Alien: A story about falling in love and proving it to the government. Sonya Kelly (The Wheelchair on My Face, Fringe First Award 2012) is back with a tearfully funny, tender memoir about securing an Irish visa for her Australian partner. Join her madcap odyssey…