Elf Lyons is that gleefully naughty clever child, who asks all the questions the grown-ups don't know the answers to and is simply heaps of fun. Swan is her deconstruction of the ballet Swan Lake – and it's her reconstruction of it too. With bubbles and party poppers, and costumes that beggar belief, her mischief is contagious and a treat to witness.
Speaking entirely in Franglais (though mostly in Anglais with a French accent), Lyons separates her own ballet into four acts. She mixes in elements of clowning, puppetry and even Greek literature, and questions many of our set ideas about ballet – coming up with her own marvellously inventive new rules that somehow make sense. First, second and other positions in dance are renamed in keeping with her own creative visual thinking, and the back wall develops a menace all of its own. You don't need to go in with any prior knowledge of dance – or indeed French – because, with so many ideas on different levels, it doesn't matter if you miss a few of them.
She's one hundred per cent committed to the physicality of her undertaking, leaping and twirling while gurning and grinning, and adding in her own joyful steps to shake things up a bit. Lyons explains the plot too, describing each turn before acting it out, incorporating a delightful strand of comic philosophy into her questions as it unfolds. There's a furious energy, and some challenging queries on the hetro-normative state of ballet plots. Plus, it's all performed with the delight of a children's dressing-up party, which as an adult it's a joy to be invited to.
There are glimpses of personal elements, reflected in proxy characters – a menacing mother of a suitcase and an ex relationship – but she holds back from ever really stepping too far out of character. Sometimes the lines blur, and occasionally she lets a punchline slip and fall, but she quickly picks it up again with an out-loud note to self and moves on to another absurd idea.
There is so much here that I want to watch it again, to catch the bits I may have missed on first viewing. "Even if you don't find me funny, you've got to admit I'd make an amazing imaginary friend!" Lyons proclaims at the beginning of her show. She's absolutely right – except that she's funny too.