Feeling Afraid as If Something Terrible Is Going to Happen

According to The Stage’s recently departed Scotland editor, Thom Dibden, comedy first overtook theatre as the largest proportion of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe’s programme during the 2010s—so is presenting a one-man theatre show about a comedian actually attempting to have a foot in both camps? It’s fair to say that it works—for the most part. Though that’s as much down to Samuel Barnett’s no-holds-barred performance, as Marcelo Dos Santos’s writing.

Barnett is absolutely fantastic here; he’s funny, charismatic and importantly connects with his audience immediately

This is a monologue, structured like a stand-up set, in which a somewhat neurotic, self-depreciating and self-sabotaging gay stand-up comedian – for whom rejection is his “safe space” – reveals his growing concerns and doubts about what appears to be an unexpectedly potential long-term relationship with “the American”—who is, of course, an intelligent, cultured and drop-dead-gorgeous adonis. Our stand-up – all too familiar and comfortable in a succession of seemingly meaningless one-night stands (except for friend-with-benefits Michael in Hampstead) – has difficulty coping when sexual stimulation isn’t the primary first-date aim.

Even worse, though, is the American’s cataplexy, a medical condition that means laughing could potentially kill him. For our stand-up, who needs an audience to laugh, this is almost a deal-killer—except that, for once, he’s beginning “to feel things” and “not feel shit after”. Of course, the implied stability the American brings is also scary; and so our somewhat unreliable narrator naturally begins to self-sabotage again. The self-loathing gay might be a cliche you’d hope we’d have moved on from by now, but he’s drawn with depth, complexity and a genuine sense of the absurd.

Barnett is absolutely fantastic here; he’s funny, charismatic and importantly connects with his audience immediately—despite having to perform “in the round”, rather than in a more traditional (and helpful) stand-up-facing-audience set-up. Director Matthew Xia clearly knows his stuff, but in the end it’s actually Marcelo Dos Santos’s script which feels more fury than sound. The end result is that the self-promoting producers of Fleabag need to move on further.

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

'I’m 36, I’m a comedian, and I’m about to kill my boyfriend...' A permanently single, professionally neurotic stand-up finally meets Mr Right and then does everything wrong. But is Mr Right quite what he seems? And how far will the comedian go to get a laugh? A dark new comedy about vulnerability, intimacy, ego and truth from the Olivier Award-winning producers of Fleabag and Baby Reindeer. Starring Tony and Olivier-nominated actor Samuel Barnett. Written by Marcelo Dos Santos (Lionboy, Complicite) and directed by Matthew Xia (Blue/Orange, Young Vic).

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