Summerhall – Roundabout
“I’m 36, I’m a comedian, and I’m about to kill my boyfriend…” As opening lines go, this one prefectly sums up Feeling Afraid as If Something Terrible Is Going to Happen. Hysterical and vibrant, moulded around the stand-up format, it tells the story of a self-destructive, proudly camp Londoner (Samuel Barnett) who trails the dating apps until he unexpectedly finds love.
“The American” – this is how he calls his partner – is flawless: rational, handsome and has a smile that shows the perfect ratio of teeth and gums. But there’s a snake in paradise, in the shape of an existing condition called cataplexy. Making him laugh could trigger the involuntary paralysis of his muscles and, eventually, lead him to death. So, Mr Right can’t laugh, and this sends the comedian’s ego into a spiral of insecurity and self-destruction.
Fearing the fragile nature of his relationship – and overtly paranoid – our man relapses into a frenzy of casual sex to hasten the break-up, but immediately regrets it. For the first time, we get to meet the person behind the comic when, under Matthew Xia’s bright direction, he puts the microphone on the floor whilst still talking to us – vulnerable like never before. Converging towards the same turning point, Marcelo Dos Santos’s minute command of the text withholds the name of “the American” until the very end, when, stripped of the arm-candy cliché, reveals a flawed, much more approachable, human.
The script is a cold shower of sarcasm and relentless self-deprecation. Its compulsive character resonates highly with a generation of Londoners subdued to the pressures of an Insta-worthy lifestyle, whilst constantly on the verge of depression.
Double Tony Award nominee and Olivier Award nominee Barnett dominates the floor of a packed Roundabout. When the performance reaches its climax, he brings the house down and I’m savouring every joke until, all of a sudden, I’m hit by a bout of sadness. It is a dark comedy after all!
Written by: Marcelo Dos Santos
Directed by: Matthew Xia
Produced by: Francesca Moody Productions in association with Julie Clare
Feeling Afraid as If Something Terrible Is Going to Happen plays at Roundabout @ Summerhall until 28 August, 7pm. Further information and bookings here.