Sarah Keyworth: Lost Boy review – serious self-analysis whips up gales of laughter

Sarah Keyworth: Lost Boy review – serious self-analysis whips up gales of laughter

Soho theatre, London
The standup was planning an altogether sillier show, but life got in the way, resulting in a set that spins grief and loss into an uproarious hour

Fine self-deprecation … Sarah Keyworth.

Before Covid, and in contrast to the two thoughtful shows ruminating on gender that made her name, Sarah Keyworth had been planning a silly, purely funny comedy set. This is not that set, for reasons that become apparent. Instead, Lost Boy finds the 29-year-old embarking on a new relationship, receiving unsatisfactory therapy – and processing a significant personal loss. It is a testament to the quality of her comedy that Keyworth fashions this into an uproarious hour – even if it leaves us with little more than the laughs, and a vivid snapshot of where the Nottingham native’s life is now at.

We begin with the news that, her five-year relationship over, Keyworth has sought counselling – and her parsimonious callbacks to this £1-a-minute process form an amusing backbone to the show. Add another running gag about her new girlfriend’s malapropisms, and Keyworth has the mortar with which to assemble an engaging narrative, about her efforts to navigate singledom, new love, a self-diagnosis of ADHD – and a bereavement that knocks her sideways.

At its best, the show whips up gales of laughter as Keyworth fixes her beady eye on female versus male masturbation, or couples who baby-talk to one another. The routine about the supposed inappropriateness of her relationship, given that Keyworth first met her new girlfriend when the latter was just 16 (10 years ago), is built on flimsy foundations but great fun nevertheless. Another fine deprecating moment comes when a chauvinist remark from a handyman is spun into a self-mortifying fantasy in which handyman and family have a good laugh at Keyworth’s expense.

There are lesser moments. The gag about grandparents feels as if it belongs to another comedian. A later joke, Keyworth’s favourite, needs her over-emphatic giggling to sell it. That one comes as part of a climactic section about her friend Paul which, for want of a bit more groundwork, doesn’t quite bear the emotional weight placed on it here. It is not the silly show she planned, then, but Lost Boy makes serious as amusing as we have any right to expect.