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Angela Barnes, Soho Theatre review - history with great gags | reviews, news & interviews

Angela Barnes, Soho Theatre review - history with great gags

Angela Barnes, Soho Theatre review - history with great gags

Cold War buff with a weird obsession

Angela Barnes likes to visit decommissioned nuclear bunkers

It's always nice to come away from a show having learned something and Angela Barnes, history buff and a woman with an obsession some may consider weird (more of which later), certainly fills in a lot of historical detail in Fortitude. Some of it touches on the Cold War and, as she drily points out, she never thought that section of the show, which started life at the Edinburgh Fringe last year, would be so up to date again.

Barnes starts by talking about how she has recently entered her forties, but thankfully this is not a cue for pedestrian material about the perils of middle age. Rather, for this amiably down-to-earth south Londoner it’s a rallying cry; she’s young enough to enjoy doing what she wants, too old to give a fig about what anyone thinks of her choices.

She touches on her child-free status, and how some people – even perfect strangers – feel obliged to comment on it. It's a trope of her comedy, to mix the autobiographical with a bigger statement about how people interact, or the kind of society we wish to belong to.

Barnes explains she is part of the Peter Pan generation, those who need never grow up; her introduction to drinking was with alcopops — “Basically getting pissed on lemonade” – and she can still dress like a toddler in dungarees and sneakers.

Barnes then introduces us to her obsession – decommissioned Cold War bunkers – an interest in dark enclosed spaces she ascribes to having been born prematurely. As for concrete structures – well she is a child of the 1980s, when even play parks had hard landing areas. Not like today’s pampered kids, she argues, who tumble about in soft play areas which in school holidays are like “Dunkirk with crash mats”, one of many finely wrought lines in the show.

She recounts how her boyfriend surprised her by taking her to spend her 40th birthday in a decommissioned shelter that’s now an Airbnb, and her undiluted pleasure in the trip is a joy. Barnes is the master of the comic quick turn though, as she moves fluidly from this to an ex-boyfriend who loved to quote Rainer Maria Rilke’s poetry, going through the peri-menopause and shopping at Lidl.

All this is presented in a breezy, conversational style, with plenty of wry asides and one-liners in an hour that speeds by.

Angela Barnes is at Soho Theatre, London W1 until 21 April, then touring until 16 June

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It's a trope of her comedy to mix the autobiographical with a bigger statement about how people interact

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Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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