Written by Gavin McGibbon
Directed by Larry Rew
BATS Theatre April 27 – May 5
I have to admit, I was a little wary of going to see Stand Up Love. I love comedy and comic plays, but for me the experience of watching stand-up generally involves forced laughter and the hope that the comedian has a day job. I wasn’t sure how much stand-up the play would actually contain, but since the words themselves make up two-thirds of the title, I was, as I said, wary.
I started feeling better the moment I stepped into BATS Theatre. Never having been there before, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but I loved the Rocky Horror-esque ambience of the place. I got a bit concerned again when we entered the theatre and sat down right in the second row; it’s such a small, intimate theatre – what if I didn’t find the jokes funny? Should I pretend to laugh to avoid awkwardness?
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I needn’t have worried. It’s the small, intimate setting of the theatre that makes the show work, and I was laughing from start to finish along with the rest of the audience without having to worry about faking it.
Stand Up Love chronicles the sometimes sweet, sometimes tempestuous relationship between a struggling stand-up comic/alcoholic, Freddy (played by a brilliant Robert Ringiao-Lloyd), and his live-in girlfriend Ana (an equally brilliant Erin Banks). Ana describes the relationship best when she likens it to “a plane crash into a kindergarten,” but Freddy and Ana seem to be so good together in the best of times that you can’t help rooting for them to work it out anyway.
McGibbon’s script contains a pleasing balance of quippy one-liners (when asked by a serious Ana to share something about himself that no one else knows, Freddy whispers conspiratorially, “I litter”) and the kind of true-to-life moments that truly make the audience care about the characters.
Don’t go into this show expecting nothing but laughs, however. Many of Freddy and Ana’s fights are intense, painful, and familiar enough to make you uncomfortable. Ringiao-Lloyd and Banks played their parts so well that I had no difficulty believing them to be a real couple, and during the most intimate scenes I felt the acute awkwardness of intrusion into their private world.
The play as a whole is simple; there are only two characters, and the play is entirely about their struggle to maintain a relationship. This simplicity is reflected in the costumes and in the set, which are natural, simple and unchanging. The show itself is short and to the point – it’s only an hour long, with no intermission. This format is perfect for the content; there’s no time for the jokes to run cold.
Overall, I happily recommend Stand Up Love to anyone looking to be entertained outside the cinema. The show contains many of the best elements of live theatre: an intimate setting, great actors, and a reflective script that will keep you laughing during even the most sobering scenes.