Feeling Afraid as If Something Terrible Is Going To Happen @ Summerhall
Outrageously entertaining and endlessly surprising, Feeling Afraid As If Something Terrible Is Going To Happen is an extraordinary piece of theatre
Written by Marcelo Dos Santos, and produced by zeitgeist-whisperers Francesca Moody Productions (of Fleabag and Baby Reindeer fame), Feeling Afraid As If Something Terrible Is Going To Happen is an extraordinary piece of theatre.
From a riot of music and colour, Samuel Barnett emerges, microphone in hand. Playing a stand-up comedian – a self-confessed "professional neurotic" with a lonely, anxious mother and a deceased father – his character's self-flagellating, frenetic, sense of humour is soon revealed to disguise a series of deep-rooted, unresolved traumas.
The play takes a poetical shape, afforded by refrains, both textual and technical – questions such as: “Does anyone ever come blood during sex and then feel like they’re going to die?” – and blackouts, as Barnett’s character tells and retells his story, editing its finer details to best suit him. He is an unreliable narrator (indeed, in one scene he refers to a book he claims uses just such a device), and performative elements mimic his patterns of thinking.
Intrusive thoughts come suddenly and unpredictably, with Barnett forgoing the microphone, and the space assuming a neutral lighting state. These moments of truth are highly intimate (and a testament to Matthew Xia’s direction); Barnett’s character becomes exposed, vulnerable – working in brilliant contrast with earlier, more snide, asides. Each moment has its meter, giving the piece something of a Beckettian quality – not least for the red mouth emblazoned on the back of Barnett’s shirt: a nod to our protagonist’s new boyfriend (his mouth is his defining feature) and to Beckett’s Not I.
There is an emphasis on the gaze throughout, too: the audience looks on as Barnett’s character loses purchase on his relationship, surely headed for the rocks. All the while, he looks back, coiled on a bar stool, about to spring, snap, or unspool. Barnett is a supremely talented storyteller, moving as a hummingbird moves, flitting from joke to joke. Feeling Afraid... is outrageously entertaining, and endlessly surprising – its punchline, perhaps, most surprising of all.
Feeling Afraid as If Something Terrible Is Going To Happen, Summerhall (Roundabout), until 28 Aug (not 16, 23), 7pm, £13-17