Review – Angela Barnes, You Can’t Take It With You

Angela Barnes has a debut show to be proud of  …

Angela-Barnes1At one point in Angela Barnes’s show at the Pleasance Courtyard, she questions the wisdom at having given up a perfectly stable job in social services, for pursuing her dream to be a stand-up comedian.

She should rest easy because she is undoubtedly a quality comic. Even before this show, she has “made it” of sorts – she’s signed to a mighty comedy agent, is a regular on Channel 4’s Stand Up For the Week (though the two are directly connected), and is an increasingly in-demand club comic.

Add to that list a debut show to be proud of. As the title suggests, You Can’t Take It With You is a eulogy to a carpe diem approach to life, as well as a tribute to her late father, who took “embarrassing dad” to eye-watering levels, and, she says, prepared her for her belated career as a comic by making her unhumiliatable.

Along the way she speaks about what you might expect of a single 30-something – weddings, internet dating and sex being key topics; and as a mainstream comic, the patterns and cadences are familiar. The problem most emerging mainstream comics have is, how do you begin to stand out, and talk about these common subjects without boring people? Good jokes help, of course, but the main reason I think Barnes succeeds on this point is that I believed completely what she’s saying, whether it’s her incredulity at the price of a wedding, or her pride at getting a swimming medal. She’s had an interesting life and is a person first, and a comic second – which is precisely the right way round. The opposite way round, you get aping; stand-ups confecting opinions and finding comic angles just for the sake of it. So maybe that wait to move into comedy is paying off for Barnes.

With dyed red hair and very much rocking a “Brighton” look (she used to live in Brighton) is salty and forthright in her delivery, and at least gave the impression of having steely confidence. This and the very personal nature of the show meant the room felt safe in her hands.

The details about her brother offering a rare compliment after she performed at Hyde Park, and her mum’s hostility to her own wedding dress all strengthen the bond between her and the audience. It makes such a difference when you believe such snippets (whether or not they’re true) – it’s not something I experience when I hear, say, Russell Howard talking about his family.

So yes, she made the right decision.

3.5 stars
Review written by Paul Fleckney

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