At the final moments of this stand-up, it becomes apparent that this could very well be the transitional period that a reliable Fringe stalwart gives the performance that should finally shoot him up the ranks into the big time. Stirling has been around for a few years now, his boyish good looks will be recognisable from his time as a children’s TV presenter and he pops up now and again with an always solid, if sometimes unremarkable set at comedy festivals. He’s an extremely likeable, spiky, charming comedian and his bouncy energy can make up for the occasional dips in his sets.
An extremely likeable, spiky, charming comedian.
However, and somewhat regrettably, Stirling has been through a dark chapter in his life since we last saw him at the festival. A break-up with his girlfriend of four years has caused Stirling to put his life into perspective, eating alone in restaurants, positioning his pillow on his lonely double bed, introducing Tracy Beaker on children’s television. It all sounds rather dark and depressing, but Stirling has twisted this material into an uproarious hour of deciphering the absurdity of loneliness and the awkward, uncomfortable reactions that come from friends and family who are unsure how to assist.
In amongst this, Stirling stirs in the amusing differences between the sexes on a reaction to break-ups, the similarities to the independence debate to a potential break-up and one of the most amusing Jedward anecdotes ever to have been heard. Yes, Jedward is an easy target for comedians but this is coming from a man who found himself in the back of a van with the eponymous duo, interviewing them a few days after a break-up. He doesn’t hold back.
This is not to say it’s all doom and gloom, Stirling is on an upbeat form, his anecdotes and jokes had the audience in an uproar throughout the entire hour. He has become a master now at spinning a yarn and on more than one occasion Stirling could quieten the room before giving a corker of a punch-line. Stirling doesn’t go into this set looking for sympathy, if he gains it, it comes from his charm and likeability, and he’s even a gentleman to his audience during the interaction which is quite rare for a young comedian.
On choosing the title, Everything, Stirling decided that that is exactly what he would talk about. As the set comes to its rather melancholy but upbeat ending which I’m sure will garner a few tears, it seems like an appropriate title. It’s exactly what I came out of the theatre thinking about, I was putting my own life into perspective, the importance of relationships, friendship and family. It’s a common occurrence in the arts that the dark chapter often garners the finest quality of work; see The Empire Strikes Back as a movie reference example. With that, Stirling has given us his most mature, artfully constructed and layered set to date. This is his masterpiece. In saying that, let’s hope Stirling comes back next year having had a much happier year ahead, however, no Ewoks please.