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A Little Commitment
Published on Tuesday, 15 May 2012

3 stars

Laughing Horse @ The Quadrant (venue website)
8, 10-11 May, 5:00pm-5:50pm; 9 May, 10:30pm-11:20pm; 12 May, 2:30pm-3:20pm
Reviewed by Mathilda Gregory

 Suitable for age 18+ only.
 Warning: Contains strong language.
 World Premiere.
 Free show. No ticket needed unless otherwise stated above.

Here’s an odd little show.  A double-header from Gareth Berliner – a comic known for his soulful stand up – and Kiruna Stamell, a disabled comedian and actor with dwarfism, who’s a familiar face from TV shows life Life’s Too Short and Cast Offs. Berliner and Stamell are a real-life couple, and this work-in-progress show is about that, really: their relationship.

Normally, I’d be a bit ‘whatever’ about a show like this, and that’s even before I knew it included cutesy tales of how they talk to each other about their toilet habits. (Yes, really!)  But despite the fact that it sounds excruciating, this show won me over.

The reason that it works, rather than being a sugary schmaltz-fest, comes in two parts.  First, this pair have charm in buckets.  You want to find out more about trivial details about their lives, because they are so damn warm and just stupidly likeable.  It’s obvious why they fell in love with each other – and impossible, as a witness to their story, not to fall a little bit in love with both of them yourself.  Stamell in particular must be one of the most charming, charismatic stand ups I’ve seen in ages; and she’s remarkably fearless.

The second thing that makes this show work is Stamell’s disability, or rather, her physical presence.  Before the show started Stamell did an impromptu dance routine, singing I Will Survive to accompany herself.  It was just mesmerising.

This show was at its best when the couple told me things I didn’t know: how people reacted, assumptions that strangers make about the pair of them.  It’s interesting to hear about the world you live in, where one person has a very obvious disability (with a wealth of assumptions attached) and the other partner doesn’t.

Sadly, there probably wasn’t enough finished material in the show to properly judge it.  A lot of it still felt very much like a workshop.  But Stamell’s closing monologue, about people who wear glasses considering whether they should breed, was highly affecting.  Berliner and Stamell hadn’t mentioned whether having children together was part of their plans for the future, but it was clear where this was coming from.

Berliner and Stamell clearly have something new to say, and it’s something we haven’t heard before.  If they find the right way to say it, they will have a massive hit on their hands.

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These are archived reviews of shows from Brighton 2012.  We keep our archives online as a courtesy to performers, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.