Mike Birbiglia: My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend, Soho Theatre, London

 

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The Independent Culture

It is the first time in London for American comedian Mike Birbiglia, for either work or play. "Why have you never been before?" interviewers have asked him in advance of his two week run, to which he has replied "Have you been expecting me?"

Based on this collection of vignettes about relationship woes, London will actively be asking for his return and another cousin from across the pond thus looks set to become part of the UK's wider comedy community.

This possible transition may be helped by the fact that a good sprinkling of the industry are present tonight, including last year's Foster's Edinburgh Comedy Award winner Adam Riches, and that they are quickly taken in by Birbiglia's cute and often calm charm.

"This is the shirt I decided to wear" the comic self-deprecatingly intonates of his casual-to-sloppy attire, part of pleading his case that, in the relationship stakes, he is one of life's "fixer-uppers" and a "sex maybe."

The 33 year old swings back and forth from the story of his current relationship to childhood reminiscences of his encounters with girls, ones that would make Charlie Brown grimace with recognition. His awkawardness is not helped by the fact that he used to think that watching two people make out was like “watching a dog eat spaghetti.” Later, when he finally kisses a girl Birbiglia likens it to conflict and notes: “She had artillery. She had braces.”

The Peanuts-like quality prevails for most of the show until the prospect of marriage, an institution that confounds him, is raised. “I'm never going to be happy” the comic protests to his girlfriend, “why would you want to be part of that?”

The stakes are further raised (and in turn so is the pace of the show) when the comedian describes his reaction to being erroneously asked to pay for damage to a drink driver's car after that driver causes an car accident between them. Birbiglia launches himself into a legal campaign to gain rectitude and his quest threatens to take over his life and his grasp of love.

It's an absorbing 80 minutes. While the character of the adult girlfriend [now his wife] could feel warmer, more coloured in, this is ultimately a minor quibble in a piece of comedy theatre that passes in time almost without you noticing but, in terms content, is memorable indeed.

Until 26th May

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