The tousle-haired Ferns is probably best known at the Fringe for his fine array of stunts: printing elaborate fake reviews; staging shows atop Arthur’s Seat; creating an award named after himself. But it turns out he can conjure a pretty proper show too, when he puts his mind to it.
That mind is one of the major topics here, as he considers how complex and confused we all are, really. As the title suggests, love is the overarching theme, and Ferns announces that he will eventually explain why he loves the whole audience. Which may sound sinister, but will ultimately make sense.
The Dorset-born comic runs a London venue these days, and teaches compering, so the first half here is as confident as you might imagine: splendid but relatively straightforward standup. A darker undertow emerges, however. Interspersed within are audio clips of his late grandfather which were recorded for a sketch show years ago; Ferns recalls regularly running to his house as a kid whenever his mentally unstable mother flew into a rage.
Rehashing those clips adds variety, but seems slightly random. Then our genial host plunges deeper and recounts a startling memory from the more recent past, which threw everything he knows into chaos, but makes this show, and this audience, come together. It’s a remarkable and risky reveal for a comedy stage, but helps Ferns explain why he—and anyone else—needs to do this for a living.
Shout it from that mountaintop: Barry Loves You is a bold talent hitting peak onstage form.