Spoonfed review of WILA

Review: Richard Herring - What is Love, Anyway?

22 August, 2011
by: Rupertspoonfed

Rupert Uzzell is in love with Richard Herring's new show, if there is such a thing...

Richard Herring's Christ on a Bike was my favourite stand-up show of last year's Fringe, so I have very high expectations for his latest offering. Happily, it completely lives up them.

The performance sees Herring explore ideas about love and whether it really exists, ostensibly with the aim of achieving its ultimate destruction. Part of what makes Herring so effective at tackling such lofty subject matter is the time he clearly takes over the writing. The show is filled with great comedic ideas that are laced with a potent appreciation of the absurd and an intelligent dose of social satire. This includes taking people’s attitudes and cleverly highlighting the silliness that runs through them. He also often uses wonderfully subversive logic to demonstrate how the exact opposite of what we believe in as a society should in fact be the case.

However, none of this comes across as condescending or supercilious, as Herring also holds the microscope up to himself and his own shortcomings in terms of his love life over the years. Particularly funny in this regard is a hilarious rendition he gives (with added commentary) of a poem he wrote as a purer than pure adolescent: a scathing critique of one of his promiscuous 18 year old peers at the time. Not only is the confessional nature of the routine brave and fascinating, Herring’s observation that the poem unintentionally reveals more about the author than the actual subject makes each subsequent verse funnier and funnier.

There are numerous other examples of similarly brilliant routines, including a superbly pedantic and exhaustively well-calculated skit discussing Ferrero Rocher chocolates. This examines our strict but fundamentally illogical rules when it comes to romance. The section is also indicative of Herring’s approach throughout the whole show when tackling his theme: using stories from his own life; exploring the issues that they have presented him with and what they say about society’s belief systems as a whole.

This mixture of autobiography with analysis of big ideas reminds me very much of Daniel Kitson, as does the honest, bittersweet tone that hangs over so many of the anecdotes and the uncharacteristically touching end section. Herring doesn’t quite have the same beautiful use of language as Kitson, but this isn’t a criticism; it wouldn’t suit his darker temperament as a comedian and, I suspect, as a human being. He also performs the show faultlessly throughout and has a particular penchant in his delivery for extreme incredulity, which adds wonderful emphasis to the absurdity he’s trying to convey.

All in all, I’m thrilled to see him still producing such consistently good shows year after year. Long may it continue.