One Woman. One Pint of IPA. One Hell of a Night. This is what we might see on the Tube adverts if Lizzie Annis and Chase Brown ever decide to sell their genre-obliterating show Trouble to the West End. Not that they would; it’s clear to see the loving care poured into every line of this lyrical monologue, celebrating the nonsensical poetry of smoking area conversations with strangers – the highs and lows of what I can imagine the Daily Mail billing “a snowflake’s fairytale”.
There is, however, more than a whiff of the medieval in this performance. As we descend into the subterranean Chapel Playhouse, we are initially startled by the rhythmic metre into which Annis confidently launches. Somewhere between Chaucer and Fleabag.
Without the help of set, sound or costume, Annis sets the scene with enviable efficiency. From the first line, it is clear that the piece is hell-bent on combining the performance principles of the past in a setting that resonates with its audience. A particularly successful modern flourish is starting with the endlessly memeable ‘yup. that's me. so you're probably wondering how I got myself into this situation’, as Annis defends her action of throwing her drink over Ben the barman.
Trouble also serves an impressively academic purpose. Lizzie sees her piece as an exposition testing “the place of poetry in relation to a physical experience”. The structure is fascinating; it successfully and hilariously packages a beautifully messy and rambling plot in the strict regimentation of poetic structure, challenging the hackneyed mantra that there is no “rhyme nor reason” to disability.
Annis’ comedic mastery is at the heart of this Trouble’s success. Her humour is low-key, and her presence on stage is an exhibition in quotidian, understated comedy, as she takes us through the series of millenial events that lead, ultimately, to our bard being barred.
Annis is a fringe animal, it’s written all over her. She’s generous with her eye-contact, she boldly commandeers long pauses, moulding them into a silence as funny as the faultless script. Her combination of vivid folkloric storytelling and stand-up will be catnip for fringe audiences the country over.
George Ruskin, Theatre Editor