When Harry Met Barry – ***

You can always rely on Above the Stag to provide an evening of camp frivolity; this is certainly the case with the theatre’s most recent production When Harry Met Barry. A romantic musical with book, music and lyrics by Paul Emelion Daly, this is the fifth reworking of the show.

Harry (Brendon Gale) is a handsome TV chef who has grown tired of meeting guys – often one night stands – who come and go. Disillusioned, he longs for love but hopelessly resigns himself to a life with no plus one. That is until he meets extrovert designer Spencer (Austin Garrett) one day in a coffee shop and the two hit it off. Meanwhile, in another part of town, cupid fires an arrow in the direction of Lucy (Maddy Banks) and the dashingly good looking lawyer, Barry (Sam Peggs), at the local laundrette. But the course of true love never does run smooth and when Harry and Barry happen to get into the same taxi one night, they instantly recognise each other as teenage friends and old sparks begin to fly, making them face difficult questions.

There’s some truth to the story. Who of us hasn’t been single – for what might seem like a lifetime – and been made to face the real prospect of a solo old age? Experienced the misery of blundered one night stands and hook ups, and the increasing lack of interested persons the older you get (particularly on all too dreaded dating apps)? My mum’s frustratingly unhelpful mantra has always been, ‘you’ll meet someone when you are least expecting it.’ Unexpected and chance meetings are the foundation of this narrative that tackles the question of love in a gay-Bridget-Joneses sort of way.

With limited dialogue, the story is sung through. There’s some catchy but predictable songs and too much of a reliance on rhyme. The show also struggles acoustically. It would have a stealthier punch with more live accompaniment and by having the actors on microphone. I understand why someone would think the small venue doesn’t require the use of mics, but this show did: aurally it lacked atmosphere and was akin to being at a disco with the music turned low.

When Harry Met Barry will no doubt be a hit with the theatre’s regular target audiences.

Booking until: 11th June
Booking link: http://www.abovethestag.com/shows/

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