Angela Barnes: Come As You Are | Review by Steve Bennett
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Angela Barnes: Come As You Are

Note: This review is from 2015

Review by Steve Bennett

A show of two unequal halves, this. For the first, Angela Barnes mulls various aspects of her life from young illnesses, to realising she’s not a party person; from her propensity to sleepwalk to stories about dating.

It’s all perfectly… well, fine. There are lots of jokes, some pretty low-hanging, no real duds, but none too unexpected either. She’s personable with it – ‘self-deprecating’ is the adjective she always gets, and with good reason – but no wallflower; she delivers solidly with an underplayed confidence that, combined with the gag rate, reassures us that she’s a pro.

In the name of getting thought a lot of punchlines, a few of them are Route One stuff: a remark about her caesarean-born brother a remix of an old Stephen Wright gag; the song Come On Eileen not being an instruction, and so on. She picks apart a manual called the Art Of Seduction that makes creepy pickup artist Julian Blanc look like Nigel Havers. ‘A stalker’s almanac’ she calls it… pretty much the same charge levelled at Dapper Laughs. It’s not the only easy target in her set, but she hits it squarely.

The straightforward approach means that, although nicely put-together, the gaggy section never quite gets into top gear. And by about the halfway point, the stress lines in this serviceable but unspectacular stand-up start to show. ‘Where’s the sense of purpose?’ you might find yourself asking. Then right on cue, she produces one.

For this, it turns out, is a show about body issues: insecurities that crippled her as a teenager and even now, with a newfound confidence in much of her life and a hot boyfriend, are not totally conquered. There’s an admirable honesty in these thoughts – even though she got the predictable backlash when she expressed them in an article published online. So even if she does use the now-familiar stand-up trope of reading out trolls’ insults, it’s at least got context.

This section avoids trite ‘love yourself’ cliché as Barnes – probably more than anyone – realises it’s not as simple as that, even with the best will in the world. In fact well-meaning friends who think a simple ‘but you’re not ugly…’ encouragement are part of the problem. Building up to a bold conclusion, this section has both impact and importance on a subject that’s often hard to deal with, so if the punchlines tail off, it’s for good reason.

Review date: 22 Aug 2015
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Pleasance Courtyard

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