Richard Herring What Is Love Anyway? Review
November 17, 2011 9:41 am
Richard Herrings parents met when they were 13 years old and have been together ever since, it was because of this the young Richard Herring strongly believed in love, the kind of love where you are destined to meet one person who will be the love of your life and you will stay with them forever.
However, life soon proved this to be somewhat untrue and, a string of failed relationships later, Richard Herring ponders the shows titular question and sets out to destroy love. Of course, Herring is looking back upon this from a perspective of current romantic happiness, hes been in a relationship for four years and alls going well, aside from his annual Ferrero Rocher shopping, but more on that later. This show also spring-boarded from a concept Herring posed towards the end of his last show a second-coming revival of Christ On A Bike where he compared a belief in love to a belief in God, both are essentially imaginary made up things that nobody can really prove exists beyond people saying they strongly feel that they are real, and it struck Herring as strange that his audience who, for the most part, thoroughly enjoyed laughing at peoples faith in a mystical bearded deity but when it came to poking fun at the idea of love and, indeed, the idea of love being just as hokey as, say, Christianity, the audience became quiet and a little uncomfortable. Its love, right, loves definitely real?
Here Herring delves deeply into his personal life and family history in such a disarmingly honest and confessional way that there are moments of startlingly awkward honesty and profound reflection that you feel youve been invited to eavesdrop on a very intimate discussion, as Herring dismantles and analyses his past relationships and his own perspective on relationships theres much that is utterly relatable and seemingly often unsaid. His reading, and criticism, of a poem he wrote called Toms Life about a young guy he met whilst camping who lost his virginity aged 14 and was currently bedding a string of girls is a funny look at Herrings then high and mighty ideals of what love was, and Herring is the first to indicate that perhaps young Herring was actually wishing he had Toms life; which, to be fair, years later he did.
These insights and anecdotes are a familiar part of Herrings act, but here he has perfected the art, with a dissection of the questionable Valentines card that brought his parents together and a perfectly uncomfortable and hilarious account of his relationship with the actress Julia Sawala (which was foreshadowed by a perhaps unhealthy obsession with the show Press Gang and then a sketch of Stewart Lee and Richard Herrings cult BBC2 series Fist Of Fun in which Herring had a shrine to Sawala).
Its not all about Herrings failings in romance, a masterful set-piece based around the aforementioned Ferrero Rocher combines many of Herrings comedic strengths, such as drawing things out to an anally logical conclusion and a taste for school-boyish puerility matched with obsessive listing (here mathematical multiples as opposed to Christ On A Bikes impressive recitation of the begats), whilst a closing routine based around his grandmother starting to date again at 80 years old is both heartfelt, bittersweet, beautifully sad and uplifting and also very, very funny and a perfect way to close the show.
Of the four stand-up shows of Herrings Ive seen this is by far the finest, moreso than any of the others it takes a universal theme and explores it in a way that is both deeply personal and completely accessible, though Herrings stories about his and his families relationships are completely autobiographical there is so much that is, often worryingly, relatable and at times you feel like youre up on stage confessing your heart out as much as Herring is. Whilst this perspective may make the performance sound perhaps somewhat serious, and the questions at the heart of Herrings work often are which is part of their appeal, it is also one of the funniest, silliest and most joyful stand-up shows I have ever seen.