Evening Standard review of WILA

Richard Herring, Bloomsbury Theatre - review

Self-confessed “short, fat, Charley Boorman lookalike” sets out to “destroy love”

Bruce Dessau

02 April 2012

Previous Richard Herring shows have explored the life of Jesus and the moustache of Hitler, so he is clearly not averse to big topics. In What Is Love, Anyway? the self-confessed “short, fat, Charley Boorman lookalike” sets out to “destroy love”, arguing that it is little more than the product of chemicals and biological imperatives to perpetuate one’s genes. If soulmates are so special, he suggests, why do Brits tend to meet them when drunk late at night? Herring crams plenty in, talking fast and constantly flinging ideas out, some childish, some moving. There are effective props too. A surprisingly saucy Valentine’s card sent by his mother in 1951 is revealed, alongside readings from his angst-laden teenage poetry journal, which display a heady stew of envy and contempt for a promiscuous acquaintance. After the interval he builds briskly to a beautifully evoked climax involving his nonagenarian nan which is touching and farcically funny. There are also delicious digs at his erstwhile double act partner Stewart Lee’s repetitive delivery.

Since he premiered this set last summer, however, changes are afoot. The committed commitmentphobe is getting married on Saturday. His heartfelt description of his feelings for his imminent spouse spectacularly undermine his rigorous mission to torpedo Cupid. But if that produces a contradictory ending onstage it should make for a happy ending offstage. I doubt if his wedding speech will be this funny, though.

Also May 15, 16 (020 7388 8822, thebloomsbury.com)