Barry promised he would "share [his] soul with you" at the start of the show, and golly, he really does. In an hour that takes us from South African robots to family revelations, via flapping meat bags and biscuit addiction, Ferns presents an always engaging, sometimes profound stand-up show.
He's back with this slightly ramshackle, endearingly heartfelt show
Barry Loves You is the latest show from Barry Ferns, proprietor of the Angel Comedy Club in London and 2014 'Spirit of the Fringe' winner. He's back with this slightly ramshackle, endearingly heartfelt show that attempts to tie his muddled mind together into an overarching theme: what is identity?
It's a compelling subject, and Ferns weaves this question throughout his more standard stand-up bits. He challenges us to question our conception of identity, of the ability of the human mind to hold multiple truths at the same time, and of our inability to effectively communicate even the simplest thing to each other. "We're just animals", says Ferns, driven by hunger, sex and fear.
The standout bit of the show for me was when Ferns really gave us an insight into the workings of his mind, in a mad stream-of-consciousness monologue about all of the thoughts that go through his brain when he's crossing the road. I left wanting a bit more of this version of Ferns, and less of the more traditional gags. He's clearly a seasoned performer and is comfortable on stage, dealing with hecklers and technical hiccups. But when he moves into the final act of the show, when he shares his soul with us, it feels a little out of place. He hadn't done enough in the previous 40 minutes to build up to the revelation: and it's a pretty big revelation. It's an intensely human and affecting part of his personal story that deserves a little more ceremony. As with many stand-ups weaving narrative elements into their performances, it lacked a little dramaturgy to hit the right emotional notes.
Clearly Ferns is using this show to process elements of his own past, and that's a brave thing to do. Performance can be so useful for that, but I think it needs to be done with a little more control than he displayed in Barry Loves You. It left me slightly unsatisfied but definitely pondering the meaning of existence in some small way. Which I guess is pretty good for an evening in the pub.