Show Reviews & Articles
More than a monologue and much more than a stand-up routine, Alison Larkin’s autobiographical show offers hugely entertaining reflections on how we become the kind of people we think we are. Grappling with some weighty themes — nature v nurture, the eternal search for roots and the ups and downs of the great Anglo-American love affair — this is a marvellously light-footed theatrical work that manages to avoid preaching or pontificating.
Adopted at birth, Larkin was raised to think of herself as a conventionally prim member of the English middle classes. Yet at home and at boarding school she was instinctively aware that something did not quite fit. A passion for all things American and a very un-English enthusiasm for life in general were two early clues. When she discovered that her real mother lived in Bald Mountain, Tennessee, her sense of displacement finally acquired a certain logic. “I’m a redneck,” she trills in her cut-glass, sub-Joyce Grenfell accent.
Inevitably, her trip to the backwoods and her encounter with the woman who had been forced to abandon her does not end in the hoped-for sense of resolution. Not quite, anyway. Larkin discovers that the ties of kinship bring their own complications.
If the story is fascinating enough, Larkin’s gift for mimicry brings an extra dimension to the journey. While her adoptive mother is a model of Home Counties understatement, all tea cups and pursed lips, her American counterpart proves to be a manic free spirit with a passion for writing brash DIY-psychology books. The tics and mannerisms of both characters are rendered with a loving passion.
She is extremely droll on the subject of British misconceptions and snobberies. Under Matthew Lloyd’s direction, she maintains a furious pace, revisiting her old school, joining in the hallelujahs at a down-home church and occasionally enlisting help from audience members.
The show is sponsored by the adoption organisation, the BAAF, but Larkin’s script is really a lesson in the human condition.
The London Comedy Festival’s Soho shows are exceeding expectations. Irishman Jimeoin and South African Pieter-Dirk Uys are about to transfer to the Duchess Theatre and last night the lesser-spotted Alison Larkin opened with an engaging autobiographical monologue. While the other two performers can draw on large ex-pat fanbases, Larkin’s background is more complex. Do many Rednecks make it as far as W1? As she briskly explains in The English American, things are rarely as they seem. The Grenfellish Larkin was adopted by a quintessential Home Counties couple and reared in Kenya before being sent to boarding school. Eight years ago, however, she discovered that her real mother was a resident of Bald Mountain, Tennessee. Not exactly trailer trash, but certainly partial to big glasses and purple-sequinned blouses. Larkin takes us through her rollercoaster voyage of discovery with wit and skill, switching fluidly between accents to play both of her contrasting families. Although the news was a revelation, things began to make sense. Perhaps this explained why she used to warm up for choir practice by singing the theme from Shaft and why she attacked her role as Riff in West Side Story with such Yankee gusto. The English American is more theatre than stand-up, but there are delicious comic moments, such as her in-flight encounter with a babbling serial neurotic and her recreation of the whooping Southern-style church service that celebrated her homecoming. The genuine premise, as bizarre as Eminem being Judi Dench’s lost son, is both absurd and poignant. Avoiding cheap shots, a delicate balance is struck between stereotyping and sentimentality. A lot is crammed in, from culture-clash gags to nature/nurture theory. Larkin might have been moulded by her nongenetic parents, but when she meets her biological father, their matching peccadillos take her breath away. Her final decision on her future is fairly pat, but almost irrelevant. Ultimately her aim is to demystify adoption.
Alison Larkin speaks with a posh British accent and drinks her tea with milk. Adopted at birth by an English couple, she grew up prim and respectable, mirroring the values she learned in her “happy, stable” family and at an English boarding school. Until she was 18 years old, she didn’t know that deep inside of her beat the heart of a country gal from Bald Mountain, Tennessee. To be sure, there were clues along the way, although she didn’t understand their source. She knew she was adopted, but nobody told her from where. Even at boarding school Alison had a penchant for American popular culture and often bubbled with a very un-English enthusiasm. Can such predilections be genetic, like hair color? What about a taste for scones and clotted cream? She has that, too. With wit, a light touch, and brilliant comic timing, Larkin sweeps the nature-nurture debate for every last crumb of hilarity. But don’t be fooled: Her search and reunion with her American birthmother was no cake-walk. Retrieving her genetic history “certainly answered a great many questions,” Larkin writes on her Website, “and certainly helped me work out who I really am — and who I am not. But without professional help from a counselor or support group familiar with the territory, the experience was more traumatic than it needed to be.” Hilarity from trauma? You bet. As Carol Burnett put it, “Comedy is tragedy plus time.” Larkin’s highly acclaimed one-woman show, The English American, is now available on CD for those not fortunate enough to see her in person. With comedic verve and brilliant impersonations, she links the worlds of her upright English mum and her all-American birthmother through the international adoption that made her who she is. “Everybody should be adopted,” Larkin concludes. “That way, you can meet your birthparents when you are old enough to cope with them.” Alison Larkin will appear in Beverly Hills, St. Louis, and Philadelphia in November, and she’s planning a high-profile run of The English American in New York. For details, see her Web site: www.alisonlarkin.com.
“One afternoon, Mum came into the sitting room and handed me a file. She looked at me in a significant sort of a way and said she’d be in the kitchen if I needed her. On the file, there was a label: “As supplied by the adoption agency, non-identifying information about Alison’s biological parents.
‘Mother: 5 foot 2, 110 pounds. American! Writes excellent poetry. Born in XXXXX. Educated at XXXXXX. Relinquished baby because XXXXXX.
‘Father: 5 foot 10. 180 pounds. American! Born in XXXXX. Educated at XXXXX. Excellent speaker. Politically ambitious.’
So now I knew the truth. I was a Kennedy.”
–Alison Larkin, The English American
Infectious enthusiasm, razor-sharp wit, a dab hand at character acting, Larkin manages to be both poignant, tenderly and genuinely tackling her adoption-induced identity crisis, and effortlessly funny. Her schizophrenic accent-shifting, hyperactive stage presence and ‘show-off’ musical talents seem all the more impressive considering she’s eating for two at the moment, although you’d swear there were at least ten of her on stage. One-woman performance? Don’t make me laugh!
Everybody, says Alison Larkin, should be adopted. That way, you can get to meet your birth parents at an age when you can cope with them. It’s a smart but interesting line that’s typical of this quirkily appealing one-woman show. Though born in America, Larkin was adopted at birth and raised in Africa, the Far East and England by English parents. She trained as an actress in England and had some success in the profession before going to America to seek her birth parents. In this endearing semi-revue Larkin plays her adoptive mother, birth mother, assorted other relatives and herself. Larkin now has a career as a stand-up comedienne in Los Angeles and she puts those talents to good use here.
It’s with a little caution that we welcome hot young US actress-comedian, Alison Larkin to Manchester. Coming direct from LA, you might expect her to observe that people here talk to each other on the street and that it rains all the time. Until you realize that Larkin was a British adoptee who returned to America to search for her birth mother in Bald Mountain, Tennessee. In her one woman show, The English American, Larkin tells the story of the search for and ultimate reunion with her lost parent. Combining stand-up and theatre, Larkin delivers a passionate, witty and enthralling tale, which takes an honest look at the divide between them and us.
Larkin tells her story with panache and verve. From the outset she whips around the different characters in her life, switching effortlessly from cut glass English to deep South accents . . . A cracking good show.
You can take the girl out of England, but can you take England out of the girl? Or more precisely, can you if the gene pool is red neck American but she’s been reared English? That’s the question raised by Alison Larkin in her solo entertainment The English American. The answer? Mosey on down to the Powerhouse Theatre in Santa Monica and let her tell you. You’ll be mightily amused. Born illegitimate to American parents, adopted by an English couple and raised in Kenya and England, in 1969, she decided to find her birth parents. She needed to know why she is who she is. Bobbi, her birth mother, hailed from Bald Mountain, Tennessee, and Alison finds her a flamboyant woman connected in blood to an eccentric American family that causes no end of amusement and amazement. Larkin’s national dichotomy is summed up in her reaction to the Fourth of July. Is she to celebrate, or is she to mourn the end of an Empire? There’s wit to spare in her assessment of both cultures. Part theater, part stand-up, Larkin shifts from a charming very English persona, into strong characterizations with comic precision.
If I had a nickel for every time I’ve been told “There’s nothing funny about adoption!” I’d be thrust into the financial class reserved for those who bicker over who is buying the remains of The Elephant Man. A small handful have stepped forward who dare poke fun at this allegedly sacred bovine. These humor pioneers dared what many considered the unthinkable. The tongue has been planted firmly in the cheek to accomplish something quite simple? Raise Public Awareness. (This is, of course, the politically correct way of saying, “Proving, yet again, just how screwed up the adoption system truly is.”) One of the many quirks that drew me to Bastard Nation was there acceptance of a blatantly reverent irreverence towards the subject. This small band of proud trailblazing gypsies has been joined by another loud voice: Alison Larkin. Alison is an adoptee who was raised by British parents in England and Africa. Upon receiving her original birth certificate by simply asking for it (the English aren’t as civilized as we Colonists, don’cha know? We keep that information from adoptees while those Brits have the nerve to just hand it over willy-nilly! Blimey!), she discovered that she was originally from Bald Mountain, Tennessee. As she boasts so proudly in her proper English Accent, “I’m a red-neck!” Take it from one who knows true trailer trash on sight: she really is one of us. The English American, a one-woman show written and performed by Larkin, is a schizophrenic romp through Larkin’s search and reunion. She portrays herself, her adoptive and birth mothers, and a few other dead-on characterizations throughout the 75 minute production. Each character has a solid dimension all its very own. You aren’t seeing a woman doing a multitude of voices. You’re witnessing a transformation of body and soul that takes place in the blink of an eye. Merely close your eyes and you will believe she’s sharing the stage with someone else. Of course, if you hear multiple voices at any other time you may wish to seek professional help, but this isn’t the forum. “Everyone should be adopted.” Larkin says, “That way you can meet your birth parents at an age when you can cope with them.” Larkin whirls her audience through some of the most personal events in her life as if she were a guide at a Civil War battlefield. The horrors of the events are obscured by the enthusiasm of a compelling,, heart-driven presentation. We’re observers as well as participants, to the point where that fragile line between the two is not just blurred . . . it’s tossed aside with wild abandon. We witness the emotions and thoughts of all members of the triad and embrace them in a way that makes us comfortable. She waves the absurdity of sealed records like a banner for all to see. She is not hiding, she is not being ‘the good adoptee’, and she is not spouting the tripe the unenlightened media and legislation love to spew. She is simply telling the truth as only a Bastard can. You will walk away from this performance having thoroughly enjoyed yourself and surprised you’ve also been educated. Isn’t that delightfully deceptive? The only dancing around the elephant in the living room is a conga line in which the entire audience willingly takes part. The English American (adoption’s first comedy album) is available on CD at www.amazon.com for $22.95, or at the bastardliciously special rate of $15.95 via www.alisonlarkin.com. It was recently voted number one adoption gift pick by Nancy Ashe on About.com, ahead of Mike Leigh’s British adoption film, “Secrets and Lies.”
As she plays the many characters she tells us about, this utterly charming, very lively young actress gives us humorous insights into the lives of the English, and does the same for the Americans. She’s terrific and so is her play.
Alison Larkin, classical actress and comedienne, merges two cultures in her tour-de-force “The English American.” Her one-woman show makes its American debut at The Bickford Theatre in Morristown at 8 pm Saturday, Sept 10. For tickets, call 973 971 3706.
Ms. Larkin combines poignant moments with humorous anecdotes, based on her own experiences as an adopted child. With her English lilt, she said in an interview over omelettes and muffins, “I came out on stage and said “Hallo. My name is Alison Larkin, and I come from Bald Mountain, Tennessee.” It got such a laugh that I realized I could do a stand-up comic routine.
The Bickford’s Artistic Director Eric Hafen said, “She came bounding into my office and gave me a copy of the play. It’s exciting to help with this and it pokes fun at both the Brits and the Yanks. It will be fun to do.” Ms. Larkin said she loves the space at the Bickford, and frequently take her children to the Morris Museum, also home to the theater.
Ms Larkin said she had struggled with her own adoption after an upbringing in East Africa and England and, as an adult, traced her birth mother to the southeast United States. Ms Larkin was actually born in Washington, D.C., where she was adopted and then moved with her family to distant continents. The contrast, she said, has helped her understand her own personality.
Her English mother, she said, is disciplined, always encouraging her to use her brain. Her birth mother, on the other hand, is impulsive, and intuitive, which has its obvious effects on her spontaneous approach to life. The adoption theme has made her an advocate for rights to birth certificates, long denied in this country.
She has performed for various organizations that advocate for adopted children and she has successfully raised funds, most recently to the tune of $150,000 for a charity in New York City. “Knowing the truth about who you came from is so important for emotional, mental and physical reasons,” she said. “now, if my doctor has a question about my health history, I can call my birth parents and ask them.”
That was especially helpful when she was expecting her first child, she said. She said she finds the sealing of birth information an injustice, but added she firmly believes that the decision to search is a personal decision. If it feels right, do it. If it doesn’t, don’t.
“You see the hurt,” she says, referring to the law in the United States that makes it illegal for adopted people to find out the truth about who they came from. “The law hurts the people it was designed to protect,” she said. “But the truth will set you free.”
Ms Larkin is now preparing the show for a fundraiser in Los Angeles, with the likes of Ted Danson, Lily Tomlin and other headliners. Her show received a four-star review from the London Times in London’s West End in 2004 and rave reviews at the London Comedy Festival at the Soho Theatre. She’s also taken it to the Edinburgh Festival, produced by the famed Assembly Rooms, where it was a hit.
American audiences may have seen Ms. Larkin in “Stanley” at Circle in the Square with Anthony Sher. She appeared on “Late Night with Conan O’Brien” and in “The Wonderful World of Oz” with Annette Bening and Phyllis Diller.
But Ms. Larkin hardly limits her time to performing and voice-overs. “I do every accent,” she said as she was on her way into the city for voiceovers of a six-year-old child, a middle aged matron and a Southern debutante.
She is also in the process of writing a novel, which has an adoption theme, but gives her more range than non-fiction she said. “I’m unshackled by facts to get to the truth,” she observed, anticipating the novel will come out after her New York production.
But, despite having lived in Africa and England and moving 10 times since coming to America, Ms. Larkin said she is delighted with the Morristown area. “We do love Morristown,” she said. “I can be on a train to New York and still take my children (four and a half and three) to Foster Fields.”
She is married to “a Jersey boy” who was a drummer and then he became a lawyer. When he realized his wife was homesick for British things, he started www.BritishGiftBaskets.com, which specializes in an assortment of gifts, mostly edible, from Scotland, Ireland and England.
AT seventeen, actress Alison Larkin was already
writing plays. They were bad plays, she admits, and the subject matter was
strange – two characters in the womb, chatting to one another. Where that idea
came from she had no idea but then, she always was a bit of a dreamer. Which was
another funny thing. Dreaminess didn’t run in her very English family. Her
parents were practical people. Larkin seemed to inhabit another world.
Somehow, her physical dissimilarity was easier to understand. She’d been aware
she was adopted since she was old enough to ask where babies come from and
everyone knows appearance is linked to genes. But personality – surely that’s
where the nurture part of the equation comes in? Yet this girl, with a
meticulously tidy mother and accountant father, was a walking bombsite who
couldn’t add up. As the years passed, she became increasingly curious about her
genetic heritage. “I needed to feel connected to someone else in the world who
was really like me. To know not who I am, but why I am who I am.” And boy, did
she find out.
She learned that in fact, she’d been born in the USA, in the heart of redneck
country – Bald Mountain, Tennessee. Her English parents had adopted her there at
six-weeks-old, then raised her in Sussex and Africa. Larkin determined to trace
her US family and what happened next became the focus of her professional life.
The successful actress and comedienne peppers her stand-up with gags such as:
“Everyone should be adopted because you get to meet your birth parents when
you’re old enough to cope with them.” Her play The English American, which
closes at the Edinburgh Fringe tomorrow, is a hilarious, semi-autobiographical
account of her search for and reunion with her biological mother.
As a 20-year-old drama student, with the support of her adoptive mother,
Larkin contacted her adoption agency, “just to see what I’d need to do if I
decided to trace her”. Four years later, in 1992, with her career beginning to
blossom, she rang again to find that three weeks after that first call, her
birth mother had walked into the agency office and expressed interest in meeting
her daughter. “That gave me the confidence to proceed. I had feared she wouldn’t
want to see me.”
A few weeks later, Larkin was preparing to board a plane to New York City. Her
adoptive mother’s parting shot was a masterstroke of English reticence, which
Larkin parodies in The English American. “Clearly, this was a moment when there
was a lot to say,” says English Mother. “So I gave her a bar of chocolate for
the journey and told her not to eat it all in the one go.”
After a nerve-wracking flight spent “thinking my entire life and identity were
about to change”, Larkin caught her first glimpse of the woman who’d given birth
to her – a loud, untidy woman who could not have been more different from the
one she’d left behind. “She was jumping up and down, yelling, ‘Oh my God, honey,
you look just like your father!’ And I thought, ‘Great, I look like a balding,
50-year- old man’.”
It was not the perfect reunion she had dreamed of. “If I’d had counselling, I’d
have known to meet for the first time on neutral territory. As it was, I stayed
with her in Tennessee and she didn’t stop talking for three weeks.” And how did
she feel? Overwhelmed. Numb. There was, after all, a whole new identity to
assimilate. She learned that her birth was the result of a deep but illicit love
affair between a 24-year-old single woman and a married man. She found out she’d
had a twin who died in the womb. American Mom, she learned, had wanted to keep
her daughter, but a “religious experience” convinced her she would have a better
life if she gave me away. (“Which was true,” says Larkin.) She discovered she
had three half-sisters on her father’s side. And on her mother’s, there was a
younger half-brother who once, aged four, had wandered off, only to explain
later that he’d been “looking for Ali” – although Mom didn’t know her daughter
had been renamed Alison, or that “Ali” was her pet name.
Coming to terms with her new identity brought its own confusions. In The English
American, Larkin’s alter-ego is bombarded with advice from her two mothers.
“Think, Alison, think,” says English Mother, “you were given a good brain, use
it.” “Follow your intuition, honey,” says American Mom, “let yourself go.” “Stay
balanced,” cautions Mother. “Live to extremes,” urges Mom.
In the end, however, it was her birth father who set Larkin on the road to her
future career. Meeting this charismatic writer and public speaker, she finally
learned where she’d got her acting talent, her literary ability and her
dreaminess. “We rolled our eyes in the same way, sat the same way, said the same
things. Unless you’re adopted, you can’t imagine what it’s like to finally meet
someone who looks like you and has the same laugh and the same hands.”
For his part, American Pop recognised his own spirit within his daughter, and
his encouragement gave her the confidence to try for the big time. She stayed on
in the USA and brass-necked a stand-up routine at the Comedy Strip: “Three
months ago, I thought I was English. But I’m not. I’m a redneck”. The audience
cracked up. Amazing things started to happen in her career. She was picked up by
an agent, given parts on Broadway.
Off-stage, things were less rosy. Even with the missing pieces of her own
genetic jigsaw puzzle slotted into place, Larkin found her identity crisis was
far from over. “My birth mother thought her daughter had come home. I didn’t
want to hurt her feelings, but I hadn’t come home, I’d come to find out who I
was and my loyalties were with my family in England. That caused tremendous
guilt for me.” Then there was the worry over how her parents in England were
coping. Guilt, says Larkin, is the adoptee’s trademark. Many decide never to
find their birth parents because they fear hurting the parents they love. “Yet
actually, it’s not a threat to them at all. Nothing can replace a 24-year
relationship. My adoptive parents, who changed my nappies and helped me through
my teens, are real parents.”
Now 31, married and expecting her first child, Larkin lives in Los Angeles. A
celebrated actress and comedienne, she appears regularly on television and has
her own sitcom in the pipeline. But today, sipping mineral water in an Edinburgh
cafe, she admits coming to terms with her new identity has taken a long time. A
long time and a lot of counselling, which she finally got through an adoptee
She is passionate about the need for better counselling and support facilities
for people like her, and tomorrow, she co-hosts a discussion with Scottish
adoption rights campaigners, Birthlink, which she hopes will attract adoptees
and parents to debate the issues. Everyone, she believes, has the right to know
who their birth parents are. She herself has gained information about her
mother’s medical history which could be crucial to her own pregnancy and
childbirth. “To deny anybody the right to their genetic history is a crime.”
But what about genetic parents’ right to privacy? The truth, as it says in
the Bible, makes you free. Larkin, who “inherited” her adoptive parents’
honesty, firmly believes this. “After all, it set my birth parents free so they
didn’t have to live a lie any more. Children should at least be entitled to
enough of the truth to satisfy their need to know who they are.” Yet she knows
that while finding her genetic roots has made her world a little clearer, it has
also blurred the edges between black and white.
Instinctively opposed to infidelity, she knows that sometimes, a little bit of
good comes out of it. “Are there any couples here this evening having a secret
extra-marital affair?” the English American asks her audience. “Well, if my
birth father hadn’t cheated on his wife, I wouldn’t exist, so I encourage you to
breed.” It brings the house down, every time.
The adoption debate takes place tomorrow, 2pm, Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh. The
English American is on tonight and tomorrow, Assembly Rooms, 6.45pm.
Alison Larkin’s play about adoption, “The English American,” was staged at the Edinburgh Festival in August this year. Catriona de Voil reports:
“Do go,” urged Beth, our Strathclyde co-ordinator. “You’ll enjoy it. A group of us went through from Glasgow and had a right good laugh.” Laugh, I thought — at a play about adoption? What an odd idea! However, Beth had also included a flyer about the play with a quote from it — “Everybody should be adopted. That way, you can meet your birth parents when you’re old enough to cope with them” Well, that certainly seemed an arresting idea. This, and the fact that on the last day of the play an informal discussion would also be held with the writer/actor and various Birthlink representatives, made me decide that this day was worth investigating. At two o’clock, in the Assembly Rooms Bar of the Edinburgh Festival, a small group gathered. Facing us was Barbara Hudson of BAAF with a panel whom she introduced as birth parents, adoptive parent, and adult adoptees. They all looked like the sort of people who would pass unnoticed in George Street outside. So where was the actress? In time the girl in jeans and tee-shirt was identified as such. Alison Larkin came across as a sympathetic-looking young, middle-class woman from a typical English rural-town background — like countless others you might meet anywhere. Could this really be the stand-up comic and creator of the play Beth described? As the discussion progressed, this impression of a thoroughly nice, ordinary girl strengthened, till I was beginning to wonder what on earth the play would be like. First, the discussion: a birth mother and a birth father (unconnected) each told of how, long ago, there was often pressure on someone still too young to withstand it, to agree to adoption. They described how, over the years, they had always thought of their respective children and felt a sense of concern and responsibility for their progress in life. In time they each traced their child and now enjoy a relationship with them. Another man described how he had always felt a bit of a ‘fish out of water’ and kept his adopted status secret from others, despite feeling positive about his adoptive family. In his case, his birth mother’s husband had long since found out about his existence, so was unconcerned when this young man suddenly appeared; indeed, he coped with it better than the birth mother did. The warning that came across strongly in this adoptee’s tale was not to do it as he had, i.e. turn up out-of-the-blue and declare oneself. It eventually worked out all right for him, but he now realizes the risk he took and urges anyone to make approaches through mediating channels. An Adoption UK mother then told of how panicked she was to be approached by a social worker on behalf of the birth mother, concerning her still young child who at that stage was displaying attachment problems. (I’d reckon many a struggling adoptive parent could empathize with this!) She kept them at bay until eventually she decided this had to be faced. And the result is that her child settled down gradually thereafter. We were all encouraged to hear her proud story of how well this young adult is now doing. Various members of the audience spoke up. One was someone who had lived for decades with a background shrouded in mystery and secrecy and the pain from that was palpable to all present. Another described attempts at tracing which revealed that a birth mother and her now adult child had at one time lived in neighbouring streets. Alison happily told of her need to understand why she seemed so different from her parents, an hence the decision to set out on a search which might explain to her ‘who she really was.’ At the end of the discussion we were all (well, bar one!) startled when a very pleasant couple sitting at the back spoke up and identified themselves as Alison’s parents. What a lovely couple they were — no wonder Alison has turned out the superb person she clearly is! The bar’s time scheduled for our discussion was up, but most of us hung out after, exchanging stories and addresses. A few of us arranged to meet up again to go to Alison’s show together that evening. This group decided to sit right in the front row: Alison, we were sure, would not be fazed by this. What an amazing girl! She seemed able to slip in and out of stage versus real Alison character so easily, with the accents accompanying whichever character. With little more props than things like a cardigan (flung on the floor after the Alison character, but neatly folded on the chair by her English mother character — and observed askance by her flamboyant American birth mother), Alison wove us through the story of her life. Mrs. Larkin took it in her stride when Alison was found dancing with the natives in Kenya, and so the child was dispatched to boarding school in England. There, a Scots teacher (shades of Miss Jean Brodie — and may I say it was an acceptable rendering of a Scots accent, Alison!) tried to turn her into a young lady. This classroom scene led to some hilarious audience participation when one poor miscreant’s property was confiscated, and deemed permanently so when it turned out to be a poster for a rival festival show! Yet throughout this very funny performance there were moments of pathos and of the gentle, supportive, patience of her adoptive parents as they bravely followed the progress of this young woman as she set out to try her life with her birth mother then father. (Letters from home were a start turn in themselves.) Afterwards Alison jointed us again for a short while, laughingly pointing out that things had to be exaggerated for dramatic purposes. What struck me was how integrated this girl was. At one point on stage, exploring theories of nature versus nurture she’d ascertained that untidiness comes with the genes. For a brief moment, she slipped easily out of character, fondly ran her hands over her six-month ‘bum’ and rolled her eyes towards it as if to say “Oh dear.” For the moment Alison is looking forward to the birth of a US citizen baby, one of whose proud possessions will be a teddy sporting a Scottish saltire on its jumper (a gift from Birthlink after the discussion.) But if ever you get a chance to go and see Alison’s show in the future, I’m sure you’ll enjoy the good laugh Beth promised me. *Birthlink is the Scottish Adoption Contact Register.
“Top notch” Chortle
“There isn’t anyone anywhere whose lives have been touched by adoption in any way who will not identify with this marvelous, funny, poignant and important show.”
–Annette Baran, Author of The Adoption and Lethal Secrets
“Alison Larkin’s one-woman show touches our hearts, even as it stimulates our minds. It reaches deeply into her own adoption experience, but it teaches important lessons from which everyone (and I do mean everyone) can learn about love and family and human relationships. On top of all that The English American is just plain hilarious. Alison Larkin is one seriously talented performer — wherever she comes from.”
–Adam Pertman, Executive Director Adoption Institute, and Author of Adoption Nation
“Alison Larkin plays herself and her mothers — birth and adoptive — with stunning insight and empathy for each of the widely varying characters. I giggled, I belly-laughed, and at last I wept as she brought each of these women into my heart. I inhaled it as deeply the third time I watched — no, experienced — it as the first. The circle of adoption in a one-woman play: it’s absolutely amazing!”
–Pam Hasegawa, Communications Chair, American Adoption Congress
“Alison Larkin’s The English American is a hilarious comedy that brilliantly zaps every one of the emotional touchstones of the adoption experience.”
–Lynn Franklin, Author May the Circle Be Unbroken
“If you think reunion can’t have a few laughs, then you want to see Larkin having a lark telling you about hers.”
–Betty Jean Lifton, Author Journey of the Adopted Self
“You will laugh, cry and learn about the intricacies of adoption as never before. I highly recommend it.”
–Mariou Russell, Author, Adoption Wisdom
You absolutely must see this hysterically funny, new, bi-hemispheric comedienne.
–Clive Pearse, Entertainment Express, NBC TV
The English American is a beautifully crafted piece that breaks the mold stylistically. One moment you’re watching a wonderful actress deliver a poignant monologue, the next a stand-up comic whose improvisational skills with the audience leave you in hysterics. It’s exciting and unpredictable and moving. I loved it.
–Michael Wroughton, What’s On, LBC RADIO
What an uplifting show! I laughed, I cried, I’m telling everyone to go see this. This Anglo American comedian is headed for the big time. You heard it here first.
–Mark Skipper, Pick of the Fringe, BBC RADIO 2
“Hugely entertaining…marvelously light-footed . . .”
–Clive Davies, The Times, London
“Engaging . . . deliciously comic”
–Bruce Dessau, The Evening Standard
“Hysterically funny, new, bi-hemispheric comedienne”
–Clive Pearse, NBC TV
“Sharp and funny”
–Tim Strong, LA Weekly
“Infectious enthusiasm, razor-sharp wit . . . poignant and effortlessly funny”
–Olly Lassman, The List
“Hilarious . . . moving”
–Susan Flockhart, The Sunday Herald
“A cracking good show”
–Eric Braun, The Stage
“A passionate, witty and enthralling tale”
–Daniel Zbrocklehurst, Manchester Evening News
“Beautifully crafted, exciting, unpredictable and moving.”
–Michael Wroughton, LBC Radio
“There’s wit to spare in her assessment of both cultures George Manet”
“The performance is top-notch”
–Jimmy Carr, Chortle
“Utterly charming . . . terrific”
–Richmond Shepard, The Wall Street Transcript
“With wit, a light touch, and brilliant comic timing, Larkin sweeps the nature/nurture debate for every last crumb of hilarity.”
–Amy Kitzlinger, Adoptive Families Magazine
“This Ango-American comedian is headed for the big time”
–Mark Skipper, Pick of the Fringe, Radio One
A “Meet the Parents” When the Parents are Your Own Reviewer: Mike Miller, Comic Relief, L.A.
Several of my closest friends are adopted, so I was instinctively drawn to this true tale of a witty, intelligent British woman’s search for her American birth parents. That she and her fascinating pilgrimage are so damn funny proved an added bonus. A keen cultural observer, intelligent and witty, Larkin takes her audience on an at times suspenseful, at other time hilarious, journey of discovery, seeking to find her birth parents while still honoring her adopted ones. Playing multiple roles, she moves effortlessly and convincingly from one character’s voice to another’s, from English lilt to redneck rasp (picture Bridget Jones stepping off the train in Hooterville) — so much so that one forgets there’s but one woman on stage. Where some comedy CDs can vanish from memory after a listening or two, Larkin gives you out-loud laughs that linger, particularly since she treats you like family, holding little back. Her emotions become your emotions, and you’re drawn to know more (like who this mystery father really is). If this is what you get when you cross American nature with British nurture, let’s have more of it.
Oh Mother, Where Art Thou?
Reviewer: Renni Browne, co-author of Self-Editing for Fiction Writers
This wonderfully gifted English comedian’s search for her American birth parents becomes an irresistible odyssey that succeeds in making her story one any listener will take to heart. Her quick changes — especially the many shifts from nurturing adoptive mother to over-the-top southern birth mother — are instantly, effortlessly convincing. All the reviews I’ve read as I write this one stress how funny and poignant this gifted performer is. She is certainly both, and often at the same time. Although no one can listen to this CD without gaining valuable insight into the feelings of adoptive mothers and their daughters, Larkin’s comedy is universal.
British/American cultural differences nailed in unique comedy
Reviewer Michael Wroughton, Press Release News, New York City,
I saw Alison Larkin performing live at The Comedy Store in L.A. As a very English fish out of water in an all-American world, she was immensely appealing, funny, political, smart and improvisationally brilliant. I’ve never seen anyone like her on the comedy circuit, and I was thrilled to learn about the release of her first comedy album. I bought it immediately, and listened to this seventy minute recording in one sitting. With wit, intelligence, and the kind of deep comedic take on life found in Garrison Keeler, Bill Cosby and Victoria Wood Larkin weaves into this extraordinary tale fresh, funny, sharp observations about the differences between the Brits and the Yanks, with which any American who has spent time in Britain will identify. I also bought a copy for a British friend of mine who lives in America, who loved it, laughing and laughing as Larkin, an original, caught between two cultures, nailed the absurdities of both with wit and panache. Larkin has sympathy for all her characters, and has no axe to grind. She leaves us, in the end, with a strong sense of the deep love she has for the parents who raised her. The story is utterly compelling. As an Anglophile, I also loved the cultural humor. It’s a dazzling blend of stand-up and theater from a uniquely talented comedian who is, I have no doubt, headed for the big time.
The Story of America
Reviewer: Betsy Salkind, comedian, former writer for Roseanne from Los Angeles
The story of America, really. A young hopeful leaves the old country for the new, dumps some tea in the bay, kills off the natives. Okay, that wasn’t Alison Larkin’s story, but she shows us a lot about ourselves as Americans, and about the meaning of country, family, genetics, and disgusting English treats. I’m not adopted myself (though who doesn’t fantasize about it at least once in childhood), but it didn’t matter, as it is really about the universal quest for identity and connection. And it was hilarious. Larkin is an amazing writer and actress, Tomlinesque in her characters. I laughed at/with her on three continents listening to the show.
Very funny, very poignant
Reviewer: A reader from North Carolina
This CD of a one-woman show was recommended to me by a friend who knows I gave up a child for adoption many years ago. I certainly gained insight into an adoptees feelings, but I also laughed so hard it hurt. Alison Larkin has a wonderful, generous gift for comedy that is uniquely hers. There are surprises upon surprises — you never know what turn she’s going to take. I’ve played The English American for a good friend who has no children, adopted or otherwise, and she enjoyed it immensely. I recommend it without qualification.
Alison Larkin — witty, poignant and very, very funny!, July
Reviewer: Giorgio Puctabi from Florida
I chanced upon the CD a couple of weeks ago, and the title intrigued me. This was recorded during a live performance in L.A, and traces Larkin’s search for her ‘birth parents’, from her days as a kid running around naked in the rain with the local Kenyans to her rather severe and proper days as a border at an English girls private (or public, as they call them over there) school. She converts her real life experiences into comedy in a unique way which made me crack up every other second! There is no doubting her ability as a comedienne. As the story progresses we hear about Larkin’s soul searching during the process of realizing that she had to meet and speak to her biological parents, the ‘final piece in the jigsaw’, as she puts it. A serious and profoundly moving topic is somehow explained, and one is left admiring the courage of the author, who possibly wishes to show that reunions of this nature can be very positive. The listener is left in no doubt who the ‘true’ parents are at every stage of the journey.
Reviewer: Jean A. S. Strauss, bestselling author of Birthright and Forever Liesel
Stand-up comedian Alison Larkin’s debut CD is a must for anyone who’s ever suffered an identity crisis or who simply loves to laugh. In the tradition of great storytelling comics like Bill Cosby, she takes us on a hilarious voyage of self-discovery, making us laugh and cry and, even more importantly, encouraging us to think through issues of family and connections while being thoroughly entertained. I cannot recommend this enough!