Theatre review: How to keep an alien

By Janet McAllister

Sonya Kelly's whirlwind romance is recounted in How to Keep an Alien.
Sonya Kelly's whirlwind romance is recounted in How to Keep an Alien.

This charming tale has all the hyphens: it's real-life, feel-good and laugh-out-loud funny.

Endearing in big Jarvis Cocker style-glasses, Irish storyteller Sonya Kelly presents the romantic comedy, How to Keep an Alien, about having to prove her love - not to her girlfriend, but to a prosaic government administration, to earn a partner visa.

Kelly, supported by amenable stage manager Paul Curley, has the proverbial gift of the gab and an ability with simile: lovers' eyes lock together "like the perfect game of Tetris"; bureaucrats probably "iron their own underpants"; love is "its own special form of OCD".

She says her beloved's Australian accent is like a "chocolate soup trapeze". (One might suspect that love is deaf as well as blind, except that Kelly's own Aussie accent is spot-on.)

No reflections specifically relate to the same-sex nature of Kelly's relationship; instead the theme is documentation. What happens to an entanglement when its every knot must be tagged, filed and put into a folder?

Still, as the play acknowledges, the heartache of falling in love with an alien on a working holiday is a first-world problem. Other people in the immigration queue - asylum seekers, for example - are far worse off.

The beautifully-told story of an Irish ancestor immigrating to Australia in the 1860s also adds an interesting and poignant counterpoint.

There are no costumes as such and the set mostly looks thrown together with what they found backstage but that's fine. Carl Kennedy's sound design does a lot of the atmospheric heavy-lifting.

It drags ever so slightly near the end but this is nit-picking. How to Keep an Alien is a keeper. Lovely.

What: Auckland Arts Festival - How to Keep an Alien
Where & when: Loft, Q Theatre to Sunday
Reviewer: Janet McAllister

- NZ Herald

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