Richard Herring The Twelve Tasks of Hercules Terrace, Pod Deco, Aug 7-29 (not 17), 19:10, £12/£10 (£8.50).
illustration by: Ash Reid
MID-SENTENCE, my date looks nervous. Cheekily, over my theatreland Chardonnay, I say, You don't remember my name, do you? Eventually, he has to admit that he doesn't, but he thinks he can recall my number.
Under normal circumstances, this would be cause to walk out. Even more so when he tells me that he's seeing another woman. Or 49 other women to be precise. But I'm not annoyed. Yes, I am Richard Herring's forty-seventh girlfriend out of fifty in as many nights, and I'm not ashamed to admit it. In fact, I'm pleased to be part of his mission.
For Herring's fifteenth summer at the festival he's bringing a show in which, anticipating mid-life crisis, he resolves to take inspiration from the bust of Hercules that graces the front of his new home and perform twelve arduous labours in the hope of giving his 37 years on this planet some kind of meaning. In some of his tasks Herring attempts to emulate Hercules. He travelled to kill the Loch Ness Monster as an homage to Hercules's prodigious slaying of mythical monsters, such as the Hydra. He attempted to steal Germaine Greer's bra, which is the closest thing in the modern world to the girdle of the Queen of the Amazons. And, most importantly, he dated 50 women in 50 consecutive nights, as a nod to the most amazing achievement impregnating as many women in the same time.
It's part of a trend towards confessional comedy exemplified by the likes of Russell Brand (my drug hell, with jokes) and Dave Gorman (my pointless obsession, with jokes). He presents a personal journey in his own style of geeky over-analysis, student humour and self obsession. I have been a fan for years, giggling with my brother to BBC2's Fist of Fun and This Morning With Richard Not Judy. More recently I have been following his weblog Warming Up at www.richardherring.com. So when I read that Rich was looking out for dates I knew to take my chance.
Herring claims not to have had much difficulty finding fifty willing women for his task, and also told me that meeting people via the internet was not something he normally did. With this reassurance I agreed to meet him at a performance of TV psychic Derren Brown. We meet in a bar, politely disregarding that he is a 37-year-old, short and slightly overweight man and I am a 6ft, 23-year-old blonde, before enjoying a box view of the show. It is a pleasant evening and I am happy that his only mention of me in his weblog the next day alludes to my cunning at understanding Brown's tricks rather than my stalkerish tendencies.
As well as spending the whole of May and a large part of April and June on this socialising endurance test, of which he wrote, I am not sure if I have gained any wisdom from this experience. I have only gained weight, Herring also faced his own worst nightmares by training for and running the London marathon, running over hot coals, and completing an obsessive childhood number-plate spotting game (don't ask). It seems too much to be given justice in an hour-long show, so inevitably some will be edited. I think the biggest joke would be if he decided not to even include material about the dates in the show.
Despite the contradictory evidence of Richard Herring's claims to be quite sick of dating and might become one of the gays now and rumours that he's seen some of the others again, I know he was only using the other 49 to make me jealous.