Barry Ferns seems like a nervous man and whether that’s normally true, in Barry Loves You he has every right to be. It closes on some extremely uncomfortable subject matter that would be difficult to confide in friends, let alone a room full of strangers, but Ferns carries this off with superb grace and courage.
But that’s just the end of the show, the sucker punch catching you unawares. For the majority of its run, Barry Loves You offers a fantastic alternate perspective on life and love. Ferns has a keen eye for weirdness and absurdity in the everyday. Whether it’s meditations on how strange the human body is, or how ill-suited we all seem for modern life, just a small switch in how one perceives the world can create humour. That’s what Barry Ferns does best. It’s observational comedy, but with wholly unusual observations. I’ve grown very tired of observational comics as a general rule, so it’s a testament to Fern’s unique outlook that I was able to have fun with the outlandish directions his mind takes the show.
Now there’s certainly some conventional, ultimately sort of bland stuff in here, but it’s a small minority amidst a vast crowd of alien thoughts jostling for attention. As weird and uncomfortable as parts of this show can be, in the end it feels very human, in a heart-warming kind of way. It’s a celebration of the absurdity of life and the joy of spending it with others. Even the gut-punch finish has little pockets of mirth to soften the blow, and the grand finale is sweet in a way that doesn’t feel forced.
Despite its bleak moments, Barry Loves You is a lovely way to spend an hour, and with a spot in The Tron pub near The Royal Mile, there’s really no excuse for missing it if you’re a dedicated Fringe-goer.
★★★★ and a half