‘I’ve just been sick behind the curtain.” It’s an inauspicious start to a gig. But Lou Sanders is not very well and, being Lou Sanders, isn’t keeping the fact to herself. That makes for an anxious opening five minutes, with an audience uncertain whether to laugh at Sanders or call her a doctor. Happily, she rallies to deliver a tight hour about her life during the pandemic and the relative attractions of those two competing impulses, love and fear.
It is characteristic Sanders territory: she’s telling tales about her rackety life, and psychoanalysing them as she does so. Tonight’s tale is not especially eventful: it’s about Sanders, 36 and seven years single, taking up roller skating and falling for a 26-year-old. We might wish for a more dramatic narrative arc, but there’s no denying that our host – with her compulsive self-scrutiny and heightened sense of her own daftness – makes her story a pleasant way to pass the time.
By way of structure, we get readings from what Sanders introduces as her “skate diary”, which recounts her visits to skate parks in Enfield and beyond. Between these, she recounts her lockdown experiences, volunteering as an NHS responder (cue much amusing self-congratulation), visiting her mum and stepdad, and losing herself in New Age “woo-woo”.
As often with Sanders, these routines flow into one another, powered by our host’s nervous energy and not always giving punctuation points or punchlines the space they deserve. There’s no shortage of the latter, including a precious one about paedophiles and a choice line about her prejudice against twentysomethings. Just as often, it’s Sanders’ personality making us laugh: this is a woman who’s high maintenance to herself, even as she alchemises her failures and malfunctions into gold-star self-regard. The show malfunctions too, in that (sickness notwithstanding) her story comes to a burbled conclusion and her ideas about love and fear are barely developed. But, as usual when things go wrong for Sanders, it does so very endearingly.