views from the gods

saints and sinners of the stage and screen

How to Stay Lonely and Keep Your Stay Wars Collection
Etcetera Theatre
22nd August 2015


Aaron Ayjay

Photography provided by Aaron Ayjay and Bentley Browning

Finding love when you're a geek is hard, but it can happen. I happen to know a Star Wars nerd who persuaded his much more normal wife to get hitched on May the Fourth. May the Fourth. Think about it, George Lucas fans. In Aaron Ayjay and Bentley Browning's collaboration How to Stay Lonely and Keep Your Star Wars Collection, sci-fi is presented as the consolation prize, something you get to hold onto only if you end up on your own. Either these boys aren't trying hard enough, or my friend is the exception who proves the rule.

Opening the night in a Hans Solo inspired outfit, Ayjay tells us about his failed relationships, which mostly result in the loss of his dignity and occasionally some of his Star Wars toys. Most of his act is pure stand-up, the rest is half-hearted comedy songs. Given he used to be a touring musician, it's surprising his compositions aren't more polished, but he gets his points across nonetheless and garners some chuckles along the way. A call centre joke doesn't quite get the laughs Ayjay was expecting - the audience much prefer hearing about his misadventures in romance. Although disability jokes do attract groans rather than laughter, he never actually offends. Ayjay comes across as good-natured and his material generally lands well.

Following on from Ayjay, the equally likeable Browning talks about being a priest's son, looking a bit like a prime minister, and having the sort of name that makes bullying compulsory. Many of his anecdotes are interesting rather than laugh out loud funny - it feels like he's held back some of his best gags. He mentions he's managed to secure lookalike work both as David Cameron and Nick Clegg, however never really taps this. If you squint, you can just about see a vague resemblance to both. You don't need to look exactly like the person to pull off impersonations, you just need to have the voice and mannerisms, and we know Browning can do accents well. The election may be over, but the show is crying out for some political jokes to take advantage of one of Browning's strengths.

A comedy song involving a volunteer from the audience doesn't appear to have a tune (it's even more lacklustre than Ayjay's musical dabblings) and could easily be replaced by a quick-fire audience interview instead. Same material, no music. There's really no point in labelling it as a song if Browning doesn't have a melody, it just invites unwanted comparisons with cabaret acts.

There are enough jokes which go down well for How to Stay Lonely and Keep Your Star Wars Collection to be an enjoyable hour, but Ayjay and Browning make for an odd couple. The show's title blatantly is meant to fit around Ayjay's set, and anything which links Browning's material to that feels forced. Sometimes a pair of comedians are a good match - Saban and Sarah for example play the misfit card well and therefore complement each other - at other times, you suspect they've teamed up purely because they're mates, or simply wanted another person to split flyering duties with. If the duo are to work together again, they need to establish a theme which works strongly for both of them.

How to Stay Lonely and Keep Your Stay Wars Collection opened on 22nd August and runs until 23rd August 2015 at the Etcetera Theatre, as part of the Camden Fringe.

Nearest tube station: Camden Town (Northern)

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