Samuel Barnett, known only as The Comedian, reprises his role following the show’s raved-about run at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2022. Mic in hand and perched on a stool on Kat Heath’s otherwise bare stage, he reels off anecdotes about his misadventures as a 36-year-old gay man with a dead dad, an anxious mum, and a weakness for Tories that sits at odds with his Northern roots.
When The Comedian meets his perfect man in The American, a hunk with the arms of a Disney prince, his inherent self-loathing puts him at risk of sabotaging the whole thing. But then, should a comedian really be dating someone with cataplexy, he wonders.
Samuel Barnett in Feeling Afraid as if Something Terrible is Going to Happen at Bush Theatre. Photo: The Other Richard
It’s Fleabag meets Baby Reindeer – a tender personal narrative riddled with angst and low self-worth. Its London revival comes at a fruitful time for Santos, who also has his first West End play, royal comedy Backstairs Billy, currently showing at The Duke of York’s Theatre. Both are funny, this one more so.
Barnett delivers a performance so in tune with his character it’s hard to believe this isn’t really his story. Flitting breathlessly between imagined scenarios, each more outlandish than the last, he drags us onto the helter skelter of a spiralling mind before recovering his composure and dusting us down with another self-deprecating joke.
Elliot Griggs’ lighting beams help fuel these transitions, brightening and fading in keeping with switches between the play’s comedy show guise, and what feels like The Comedian speaking candidly with us. In a few particularly raw moments, Xia has Barnett drop the mic entirely, which enhances the sense we're his confidants.
Samuel Barnett in 'Feeling Afraid as if Something Terrible is Going to Happen' at Bush Theatre. Photo: The Other Richard
Ah, but don’t be fooled. Santos’s smart play is constantly winking at us. It’s only when The Comedian pauses to vocally rewrite details of his story, or to change the names of his characters, that the bubble bursts.
The title, Feeling Afraid as if Something Terrible is Going to Happen, will be familiar to anyone who’s ticked boxes on mental health forms assessing their anxiety levels. The Comedian eventually fills out one such form, seeking professional help for his intrusive thoughts. Although a relief, this is not the story’s conclusion. While the real thing is perfectly neat, a final reveal ends matters on such a cliffhanger there's hope the story’s Comedian will one day pen an epilogue.
|What||Feeling Afraid as if Something Terrible is Going to Happen, Bush Theatre review|
|Where||Bush Theatre, 7 Uxbridge Road, London, W12 8LJ | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Shepherd's Bush Market (underground)|
10 Nov 23 – 23 Dec 23, 7:30 PM – 8:30 PM
|Website||Click here for more information and to book|