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Lorna Rose Treen: Skin Pigeon review – dolphins, vamps and Brownies join dotty parade | Edinburgh festival 2023

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Funny Women winner 2022. Chortle’s best newcomer. Lorna Rose Treen has amassed a few awards already in her short career, and there’s buzz around her maiden fringe show. I’d say deservedly so – with a few caveats. Skin Pigeon is a dotty character-comedy anthology, situated so far leftfield as to risk entanglement in the hedgerow. Treen has fashioned for her set an overflowing laundry heap, from which to emerge head-first like Winnie in Happy Days, in character as this or that oddball personality: a chain-smoking film noir vamp; a maniacal door-stepper; a dolphin recognising itself in the mirror.

We’re not in the realm of fully-rounded characters here: that’s not what Treen’s doing. They’re more like wonky cartoons, pitched at a sharp angle to the real world, and all invested with Treen’s pleasure, faintly defiant, at modelling her dressing-up box onstage. Sometimes, I found her ideas for characters, and the bold brushstrokes with which she brings them to life, more impressive than the jokes. And while you can see why she’d want to vary the rhythm with a few blink-and-you-miss-them personae, there are one or two who feel throwaway or in want of development.

The show’s leading lady is a gawky nine-year-old Brownie, showing us her badges – and revealing her social misfittery (“I can’t be in charge, because of the things I do”) – in the opening sketch. A rare note of satire is introduced by a later mickey-take of Sally Rooney, reading from her children’s book Normal Babies. A cowboy character with guns for hands is divertingly daft, and played as if Sam Peckinpah had directed Edward Scissorhands. Her Kiwi PE teacher orchestrates audience ballgames, which doesn’t take us very far. There’s an unexpected cameo that will have audiences wondering “did that really just happen?” all the way home.

When Treen’s Girl Guide returns for her triumphant finale, it demonstrates – with a little help from a gent in the front row – how completely she’s got her crowd onside. It’s Brownie points all round, then, for a rookie comic who might be bothering another awards panel sometime soon.

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