By Isabella Fraser
A quirky, offbeat but utterly heart-warming show, How to Keep an Alien looks at the challenges involved in falling in love with someone from another country (and who will require a visa to stay). An autobiographical piece by writer and performer Sonya Kelly, it is – on the surface – a light-hearted look at modern day love, but could also be considered a thought-provoking commentary on the challenges of the ever-changing visa system and the lengthy requirements that need to be adhered to. Kelly is not alone in this show: she is accompanied by a fellow performer, Justin Murphy, who not only performs as required, but acts as a stage manager too.
Kelly is a bundle of energy, sparking around the theatre with verve, chatting as she address the audience about the content on stage and off. As this piece works through an address to the audience, it is this energy and Kelly’s humorous ability to tell a tale that works in creating an ambiance that relaxes the audience. Being able to maintain a witty demeanor and discuss the ridiculousness of being paid (sometimes extremely well) to pretend to be someone you are not, sounds far more confusing on page than it did in real life.
Murphy, while tasked with a less wordy role, times his interjections perfectly. He is the perfect foil for Kelly, with a more laid-back approach yet still entertaining and dispensing charm as he alternates between bad cop (you will tidy up) to good cop (let me just help you). An added bonus is when he signs a classic pop song and it still makes sense within the realm of the play.
There is much to laugh at, partly through the crazy, fanciful script, where Kelly speaks through all of the voices that we have in our heads while ruminating about all your average, everyday worries. Well-executed direction from Gina Moxley ensures the piece does not flag, but instead zips along so that the show is concluding before you realize it. Mentions should also go to the lighting and sound team who brought together atmospheric-creating backdrops, which enhance rather than overpower the on-stage performance. A life-affirming, uplifting and well-crafted piece, which deserves the packed audiences it has been playing to.