Helen Arney delivers Songs of Modern Loving on the ukulele

Written for The List (issue 662)

When comic musician Helen Arney debuted at the 2009 Fringe with 81/2 Songs About Love (and other myths), she’d already named her 2010 follow-up. ‘Songs for Modern Loving sounds like a lot of things,’ she says. ‘A David Bowie song, a Jonathan Richman band, a Blur album …’ Whatever it sounded like a year ago, that title sounds strangely prophetic to Arney now. ‘I could not be having a more modern relationship. He lives in Australia,’ she explains. ‘Ten years ago we wouldn’t have been able to talk to each other more than once a week: we Skype each other pretty much every day. Thirty years ago we wouldn’t have met. It just wouldn’t have happened.’

That awareness of how easily she could have missed out bothers Arney more than her bright, energetic attitude reveals. ‘This is a feeling I battle with all the time: that someone else is out there having more fun than me, getting more sex than me, being happier than me. But despite all that paranoia, I’m happier now than I think I would be if I was alive at any other time.’ And what better way to express that happiness than by playing the world’s most cheerful instrument? ‘A lot of people are pretty much allergic to the ukulele,’ Arney grins. ‘If anyone’s reading this thinking, “Oh, another ukulele, I wish they would just stop,” that person should come and see this show. They’ll see a different side to my four-stringed friend.’

But true to form, Arney is already looking beyond 2010’s ukulele-related innovations and is considering penning a musical. The title? Science: The Musical! And the tagline? ‘All of the excitement, all of the discoveries, none of the beards.’ Come 2011, remember where you read it first.

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