Fest review of WILA

Richard Herring: What Is Love Anyway?
4 stars

By Malcolm Jack | Published 11 August 2011
After tackling the thorny subjects of fascism and religion respectively on his last two trips to the Fringe, Richard Herring this year takes aim at something close to all of our hearts but sufficiently intangible to be taboo – namely love, an “amorphous and poorly defined” concept he intends to “destroy”.

Isn’t love, like religion, merely hokum to help us through this “bleak and pointless existence”? Sure, parents love their children, but aren’t they just “sexual excrement” inadequately disposed of?

Nihilistic as all that might sound, the content is largely subtler and more heartfelt than Herring’s fans might be used to. Perhaps the 44-year-old’s edge has been softened by three years in a serious relationship – even if that relationship has necessitated a Ferrero Rocher-related romantic gesture which, compounded by his poor grasp of exponential mathematics, may in time force him to enslave the entire human race.

Herring’s reading of a poem penned by his 18-year-old virgin self greenly lambasting a lothario mate is priceless. As is a toe-curlingly awkward anecdote about being forced to watch an old Fist of Fun sketch—in which he fantasised about keeping Julia Sawalah in a well—with his then girlfriend, Julia Sawalah.

He typically can’t resist skirting the edge of good taste – specifically with a routine about his Alzheimer’s-suffering granny. Yet its denouement is a serious and heartfelt statement about unconditional affection that has a few eyes welling-up. Of course Herring is softer-centred than all the cynicism suggests; material with trademark bite may be missed, but there’s an unexpected soulfulness to this show that’s difficult not to, yes, love.