Feeling Afraid As If Something Terrible Is Going To Happen
Marcelo Dos Santos
Francesca Moody Productions in association with the Bush Theatre
After amassing rapturous reviews, extending its run, and bagging a Fringe First and an award from The Stage at 2022’s Edinburgh Fringe it was inevitable that sooner or later this solo show was going to transfer. It now has and plays Bush Theatre until Christmas.
Reprising his Edinburgh role, Samuel Barnett gives a barnstorming performance as the Comedian in this honest look at emotional fragility that manages to be both very funny and gently moving.
The play is set up as a stand-up routine by writer Marcelo Dos Santos’s protagonist, a captivating, kaleidoscopic invention. We watch the 36-year-old Comedian plying his trade, converting his day-to-day events into material for his new set in real time trying out ideas in spoken thought bubbles.
At the same time, in snappy asides, he shares commentary. Consistently funny, the Comedian’s skills run like a train from comic overstatement to savagery stopping at every station.
A bundle of anxieties and insecurities, when he meets an attractive young American, he dives in for the usual fleeting, sex-focussed encounter, but this turns out to be unlike his typical dates.
We see the American only through the Comedian’s eyes, but clearly he unsettles the proudly transparent and neurotic Comedian by withholding what he crucially needs whilst also giving him more than he could have hoped for.
With striking subtlety, Dos Santos changes the timbre of language, the lines still economical and whip-smart but more compassionate and matching the deeper tones of the narrative as the relationship plays out and the routine comes to its unexpectedly comic end.
Director Matthew Xia has Samuel Barnett ramp up a comedian’s usual chatty meandering across the stage to suitably angsty speed and celebrate the campness with which a stool can be moved or a bit of reverse mincing can illustrate a “nifty reverse park”.
Barnett’s performance is breathtaking, delivering a barrage of passive-aggressive comedy with machine-gun velocity to precise near-choreographed movement.
His timing is super-sharp and, with his restlessly searching eye contact, it is impossible not to follow his every move and hang on each word poised for the next twist or gag which often come packaged.
Stand-up comedy is a craft in its own right and playing with it as the central conduit for this solo show whilst steering a clear route through the choppy text of routine, soliloquy and asides requires a special talent that is evident in spades here from writer, director and performer.
The result is a very funny, must-see journey of a young man resolving the complexities of his emotions, pieced together from shifting viewpoints like the art of a Cubist sculptor at the head of their game.
Reviewer: Sandra Giorgetti