The opening scene turns our audience into a crowd at a Fringe stand up show. Freddy’s opening act is dark and sometimes disturbing but is rewarded with roaring laughter. From celebrity baby names to punching babies, Freddy introduces a theme of rage and hints at his own troubled childhood and anger issues.
Tony Black’s charming lighting design seamlessly transforms the audience from a Fringe crowd to the walls of Freddy’s apartment. The transitions to and from the stage are slick and create an episodic structure. With the spotlight out, the all-too-familiar messy apartment is revealed when Freddy drunkenly arrives home. Ana has impatiently waited up for him. Here we are subject to the couple’s sweet nothings and intimate arguments.
Ana wants to pillow talk. For this couple, pillow talk is a paradise and a war zone (thanks, Zayn Malik). After reminiscing about their day, Ana asks Freddy to share vulnerabilities. He initially puts up a wall. Alcohol remains a strain on their relationship and Ana’s secret raises the stakes.
Ana satisfyingly takes over Freddy’s spotlight to offer her perspective. Freddy appears at the opposite end of the stage weaving his monologue with hers. The traverse staging engages the audience in an emotional match of Ping-Pong, heightening the tension between the lovers making you question whose side you are on.
The play reveals its age at times: From the Seinfeldesque jokes about the differences between men and women, to the popular culture references and even to Freddy’s ironically cuffed jeans. Despite the dated script, the jokes can still be made about celebrity baby names except today we can swap Apple for North.
Some things never change. Which leads me to the questions Stand Up Love poses. McGibbon asks not only can people change for relationships, but should they? To what extent can people change? This production reminded me of the need for comedy when rage takes over. Humor is a powerful communication and reflection tool. I wonder whether Freddy needs stand up more than just to pay rent.
If Stand Up Love sounds like your cup of tea I recommend also seeing the other half of Making Friends Collective’s double barrelled production Wine Lips. Written by Sam Brooks and directed Stella Reid, Wine Lips also focuses on toxic relationships, suffering artists and making you laugh.