Review: Feeling Afraid As If Something Terrible Is Going to Happen, Bush Theatre - funny and richly layered
Feeling Afraid As If Something Terrible Is Going to Happen at the Bush Theatre is the sad clown paradox.
The Comedian (Samuel Barnett) tries (and succeeds) to make people laugh while simultaneously suffering from anxiety and low self-esteem to the point of sabotaging anything good that happens.
He narrates and comments on his own story but isn't necessarily a reliable narrator. He bursts onto the stage and grabs a mic as if at a gig, and proceeds to deliver and re-deliver lines to see if they land better. It's as if he is testing new material.
How much truth is there in the story he proceeds to tell, or is it embellished or made-up material for his comedy set?
A serial user of apps to find casual sex, he is drawn to an American PhD student with "arms like a Disney prince" who likes to take things slow. Several dates slow.
The Comedian not only tells us about the exchanges between the two but relays his inner monologue. He is sharp, witty and revealing, with a keen eye for human behaviour and scathing judgement. He is also self-indulgent and makes bad decisions despite his better instincts.
While he is very funny, and there are plenty of laughs, there is also something sad in the way he grasps for humour and engineers bad outcomes because he doesn't believe good situations are real or that he is deserving.
His safe space, he tells us in an aside, is in those cold rejections and being used. That is his familiar territory.
Is his self-deprecation honest or for comic effect? There is a moment when he drops the mic and talks without it, is that the whole truth?
Samuel Barnett makes you laugh with just a look and has impeccable comic timing while still hinting at all the darker layers of the character. The Comedian is simultaneously a joy, sad and unpleasant to spend time with.
The play has a clever and funny payoff, almost as if it's one long build-up to a punch line. It is a fitting end to a funny and richly layered play.
I'm giving it ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.
(My ticket was a media comp.)
Feeling Afraid As If Something Terrible Is Going to Happen, Bush Theatre
Written by Marcelo Dos Santos
Directed by Matthew Xia
Starring Samuel Barnett
Running time 65 minutes without an interval.
Booking until 23 December; for more information and tickets, visit the Bush Theatre website.
This was a media comp ticket.
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